A short time ago, my young son and I noticed a sign on Portland's Sesame Donuts shop (very near our home) that June 3rd was "National Donut Day." That piece of news wasn't so inspiring as the fact that the store would be selling 25-cent donuts that day. So of course we make the short trip on that morning to participate in this celebration, and I checked in my location to Facebook with an appropriate comment about the event.
Not long after, a friend of mine in Europe commented on my post. "Do you really have a national donut day? I love America :-)". I had to reply honestly, and say that it was probably just a marketing scheme, albeit a tasty one!
It is true that many such special days on the American calendar are just marketing schemes cooked up one some retailing association or another to bump up sales. Retailers have invented days for giving gifts to just about anyone you might know--family, of course, but also secretaries, nannies, bosses/managers, your neighbor's pet Chihuahua, you name it. And most of the time we just roll our eyes at such things, which I would've naturally done with the donut thing except for the fact that the deal was too good to pass up.
At the same time, I started to reflect more on something more true about these fabricated events. Success in any endeavor always depends not just on skills and know-how, but on the ability to overcome inertia and move energy. Once a flow of energy has started, in other words, it's a dynamic force you can work with, shape, and direct, whereas energy that's frozen into a solid and unmoving form is there, certainly, but very static. We recognize this by celebrating when people who we'd normally expect to knuckle under or cave into their circumstances stand up and put out the energy to overcome their challenges. We admire people who rise out of poverty through will and perseverance more than those who became wealthy through inheritance or other "strokes of fortune." In fact, how often do we see people become rich through no real effort of their own, only to squander that wealth entirely!
This, then, is exactly what fabricated holidays accomplish: they serve to awaken and move energy in a particular direction. This can, and often does, stimulate a greater ongoing flow of energy in that same direction. I had to admit, that is, that without a National Donut Day, I would hardly have thought to visit Sesame Donuts on a Friday morning with my family. We'd actually only been there maybe twice in the last five years, but now what we (and especially my son) has had the experience, there's a good chance we'll visit more often. Fait accompli.
In this way, I have a new understanding and appreciation for these events. Though they perhaps soar to the heights of corniness, they yet embody that important relationship between success and energy. So though many such days are probably not created with much noble purpose in mind, they yet serve this noble purpose of generating and moving energy across the culture. They serve as a subtle reminder of this important principle to us all, and in the end, I think we're actually better off for it.
Now if only National Donut Day was a monthly event!