National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day, anyone? Every day is an excuse to program with these holidays.
This month, I’ve handed the spotlight to a dear friend who always knows what obscure holiday it may be and how to celebrate it! Kami Bumgardner is the youth services coordinator at Maitland Public Library in Maitland, Fla., and works primarily with toddlers and kids through fifth grade. Any questions or comments will be forwarded to her. Enjoy!
“I'm afraid of losing my obscurity. Genuineness only thrives in the dark. Like celery.” — Aldous Huxley
An unscientific study of NationalDayCalendar.com reveals there are, on average, three obscure (and sometimes not-so-obscure) holidays on any given day of the year. These lesser-known holidays can be celebrated to promote a cause, to recognize historical events, or just as an excuse to have a few laughs.
While there are plenty of worthy holidays to consider programming around, sometimes it is OK to choose the wackier ones. For example, baking at home is an easy way to celebrate National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day (Aug. 4) on your own, but there is more involved when you want to engage a crowd in recognizing a lesser-known holiday. Just as you may think everyone would enjoy National Cheese Day as much as you do on Jan. 20, the lactose intolerant would not. When planning programs and events to highlight obscure holidays there are some important things to keep in mind.
Consider your audience
If you have a large audience of retired people, they may not be as likely to participate in a program about National Clean Your Virtual Desktop Day (the third Monday in October — this year, Oct. 15), but they may line up at the door for National "I Love Lucy" Day (also Oct. 15). Consider playing a "Lucy" show marathon, have a look-alike competition for the best Ricky and Lucy, or Fred and Ethel. If you are in the NYC metro-area, you can consider a musical "Lucy" event. The New York Public Library’s Music Division has the original sheet music for "I Love Lucy"’s theme song. They have the 1970’s “Disco Lucy” version, too.
Last year, my library’s Youth Services department planned a combination Star Wars Day and Free Comic Book Day (May 4 and 5). Our local comic book shop donated comics to us to distribute and we watched "Star Wars" movies and made "Star Wars"-themed crafts. While it might seem odd to some to mix two holidays, we felt that although the holidays are so close, each are equally worth celebrating. It’s OK to get creative!
Consider your budget
National Hot Sauce Day (Jan. 22) has already passed this year, but unless you have a special sauce budget and an extra fridge, a library program around this delicious holiday is probably out of the question. World Card Making Day (the first Saturday in October) might work well for you, as you will most likely already have many of the supplies you need in your building.
How else can you save money? Reuse, repurpose and upcycle! If your library doesn’t have a strict donation policy, then you probably have a ton of National Geographic issues. Repurposing them in a creative fashion not only gives them a worthy purpose, but also alleviates budgetary concerns. Hosting a program for National Vision Board Day (second Saturday in January) is a fantastic way to use these magazines and have an event that is fun for groups of all ages.
Obscure holidays for the little ones...
As youth services coordinator, I am responsible for a craft each week for our very popular storytime sessions. Held three times a week, free and open to the public, we can expect between 50 and 125 people for storytime. Needless to say, I plan WAY ahead.
Each week features a different theme, and when there are no major holidays, I often use obscure holidays. We try not to recycle themes, so when you need 52 a year, it’s time to get creative! The crafts are designed for parents and kids to have fun and help develop fundamental skills for preschoolers. A couple of my very favorite obscure holidays to program around are National Pizza Day (Feb. 9), National Sandwich Day (Nov. 3) and World Kindness Day (Nov. 13). Each of these holidays has a great base for building an engaging and entertaining storytime theme and coordinating craft.
...And for the grown-ups
Grown-ups like to celebrate too! Many libraries are expanding cooking programs, and if you are one of the lucky ones with a kitchen, you know that “if you feed them, they will come.” The number of food-related holidays is seemingly endless, so depending on what level of food preparation or cooking your building can support, you can come up with many, many options.
Craft programs are also a big hit, and can draw in nice sized groups. An upcycled jewelry program is fun and is a great way to draw in a crowd for National Jewel Day (March 13). Patrons can bring in bits and pieces of jewelry they don't use any more; an earring with no match, a bracelet missing a few stones or a necklace with a broken chain or clasp — things that still have some good parts that can be salvaged to make something new. At our library’s event, patrons traded and swapped pieces with each other to make some very fun new things.
Movie programs are another great way to celebrate the obscure. Depending on your library’s license, consider Alfred Hitchcock Day (March 12), J.R.R. Tolkien Day (Jan. 3), Batman Day (Sept. 26), and Star Wars Day ("May the Fourth" be with you) for a fun movie marathon.
When in doubt, go with outer space
Anything space-related, in my experience, has been a HUGE hit. Crowds of all ages can enjoy and learn something new at these types of programs. International Observe the Moon Night (Oct. 28), National Astronomy Day (celebrated in the spring and fall, this year April 21 and Oct. 13), and National Space Exploration Day (July 20) are wonderful opportunities to build a strong space-oriented program in your library.
With the overwhelming popularity of the recent eclipse, I'm sure most libraries have seen an uptick in interest in all things space or astronomy related. While the next big eclipse isn’t until 2020, keeping space-related programming alive is good for everyone. Now is the time to network with any local schools or planetariums and find someone who can help you facilitate these programs; many will be thrilled to come do a presentation to help the community learn all they can about our universe.
For more inspiration
Obscure holiday programming can be fun for all ages and help fill programming gaps. If you know the when, a little research and ingenuity can help you create the how.
Chase’s Calendar of Events is basically the magnum opus of holiday reference, but if you can’t get a hold of one, check out the following online resources.