Day 638: Break Out The Balloons (And Wash Your Hands) – It’s Almost October!

originally published September 29, 2013

By no means am I eager to scoot September out the door and usher in October, which is quite often the beginning of winter in this northern hellscape town I call home. But I’ve got a theme planned for next week’s articles, and I don’t want anyone to miss the wacky fun and wild party opportunities for October. This is a month full of festivities, so you’d best polish up your favorite drinking chalice and concoct at least two or three good excuses for missing work.

Sure, we have Thanksgiving to look forward to, or Columbus Day down south – everyone loves a day off. And yes, the little kids will be begging door-to-door for candy while their moms (and maybe dads!) try to rock the slutty nurse costume they bought at the closed-down Office Depot-turned-Halloween store. But those are too obvious.

Like any month, October is filled with important observances that too many of us let slip by without noticing, probably because the evil forces at the big calendar companies refuse to slap them between the moon phases on their precious annual offerings. Well we don’t subscribe to such biases here. Religious holidays? Entrenched secular celebrations? Forget that crap. Let’s talk about Global Handwashing Day.

Don’t worry, you still have more than two weeks to buy your loved ones their Global Handwashing Day gifts. Back in 2008 at the annual World Water Week in Stockholm, the… well, the water-people, whoever would attend World Water Week (mermen perhaps) suggested a day of global handwashing awareness. The UN signed off and declared October 15 as the day everyone is supposed to pay attention to their bathroom habits and publicly shame those filthy souls who walk straight from the stall out the door.

There are 70 countries planning activities around Global Handwashing Day. I’d detail all the individual events surrounding this magnificent occasion, but its Wikipedia page is literally almost as long as the page for the French Revolution and I simply don’t have the time. Check your local listings for parades, hand washing demonstrations and tribute albums to hygiene. Maybe you’ll get lucky.

For twelve solid hours of debauchery and sack-thwacking fun you’re going to want to hang out with your local chemist on Wednesday the 23rd. Perhaps you’re familiar with the concept of the mole – not the animal or the undercover traitor, but the unit of measurement which chemists use to express amounts of a substance. No? Well, you can still hoist a stein of your favorite brew to pay tribute to Mole Day.

Since there are 6.02×1023 particles – that’s atoms or molecules – in one mole of substance, the party-planning branch of the chemistry industry thought that between 6:02am and 6:02pm on 10/23 would be a great time to celebrate Mole Day. Much like Global Handwashing Day, this is a ploy to get kids to think about the topic at hand, in this case science. Each year they come up with a punny theme too, like “The Mole The Merrier”, “Ace In The Mole”, “Molar Eclipse” and “Ride The Molercoaster”. Chemists are awesome.

I actually like this one, if only because so many of our western holidays revolve around spending money on gifts and cards or else drinking oneself into a blind stupor. Over in China they celebrate the Double Ninth Festival on the ninth day of the ninth month of the Chinese calendar, which falls on October 13 this year. Chinese tradition relies heavily on numbers, and nine is most definitely one of the potent ones. On this date it’s customary in some regions to visit the graves of loved ones, or to lay out delicious offerings for them. You know, in case the food in the great beyond is a little bland.

On this date you can also celebrate by climbing a mountain, shooting back some chrysanthemum wine, and wearing the cornus officinalis, a medicinal species of the dogwood plant that pairs up well with any outfit. In Taiwan they used to celebrate this day as Senior Citizens Day, but now it’s all about everybody.

Now we get back to some good ol’ western-hemisphere commercial exploitation. This occurs mostly in the Great Lakes region, but I’m sure it has no doubt spread its money-grubbing sputum a little further outward. It’s Sweetest Day, or the way local candy merchants can build upon Halloween tradition and elevate October to a month of pure profit. The idea on Sweetest Day is that you give small presents (Hey! Maybe some candy!) to your loved ones, reminding them that they are important enough in your heart to warrant yet another manufactured holiday to stimulate the sweet-tooth side of the economy.

This began in 1921 in Cleveland, founded by a committee that was coincidentally chaired by candy-maker C.C. Hartzell. Hallmark has joined in of course, and now if you live in the area, you can joyously recreate the stressful obligations of Valentine’s Day twice every year. Hooray!

Nine out of ten people have no idea that World Statistics Day exists, but if told about it wouldn’t care. Nevertheless, the United Nations Statistical Commission declared such a day on October 20, 2010, sparking celebrations in over 130 countries. Unfortunately the next such day isn’t schedule to occur until 2015, so this year we’ll have to settle for reminiscing about that wild time three years ago when the world joined together as one to reflect on numbers and demographics and stuff.

In Canada we celebrated with speeches and free coffee in three buildings. Also, free cake but only for employees of Statistics Canada. In Tajikistan they distributed pamphlets. Over in Nepal the local phone companies donated valuable crumbs of bandwidth to allow their customers free local text messages for a day. Not exactly a party for the ages, but I’m sure it’s a big deal among stats-lovers.

While not the most specific name for a celebration, Persons Day is a valuable and severely underappreciated snippet of our October calendar. On October 18 we Canadians celebrate the ‘Persons Case’, also known as Edwards v. Canada, a 1929 constitutional case that held that women should be allowed to sit on the Canadian Senate.

Women’s groups make a big deal out of Persons Day, but it strikes me as a lost opportunity to really crank this out to the forefront and promote the day as a time to commemorate equality across the board. Come on, we’ve still got a lot of ground to cover before true equality is achieved – a widely-publicized national day might help do the trick.

Also, let’s make it a day off. That’ll really get everyone’s attention.


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