ISMISM New concepts for the Nineties

No. 26: calendarism

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Calendarism: an eruptive disease characterised by the spontaneous appearance of spurious feast days. Similar to anniversitis, an inflammation of the commemorative glands, calendarism is believed by some authorities to be a response to the increasing secularisation of British society, a social development that erased from pocket diaries the italic register of church feasts and saints' days. In obedience to the First Law of Hype ("Publicity abhors a vacuum") new red letter days have evolved to fill the vacant space.

Sunday, 23 July, the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost, now also marks the inception of National Ice Cream Week (the Feast of the Consumption) and serves as Disability Awareness Day. St Dominic's Day, 4 August, has become merely a curtain raiser to National Condom Week, which begins three days later and during which the congregation is invited to reflect on the sacramental meaning of tautly-stretched latex. Yesterday was the fourth annual "Bog Day", a date set aside for the offering up of prayers for the world's endangered peat wetlands. Today marks the beginning of Spina Bifida Week. And we still have National Thomas Day (12 August) and National Left-Handers Day (13 August) to endure.

Some epidemiologists argue that the current virulence of the disease (the lesions have spread to every area of the calendar but for those colonised by the most tenacious public holidays) is a result of an unhappy combination of two relatively innocuous conditions - the desire of special interest groups for media attention and the debilitating addiction of newspapers and broadcasters for "topicality". Finding that supplies of official anniversaries were running dry, the better-adapted special interest groups began to produce their own.

The symptoms vary considerably in severity. Some outbreaks reach epidemic, even pandemic, proportions, while others will pass entirely unnoticed by the general population, remaining inactive and dormant in the events diaries of major news organisations.

National No Spitting Day (7 November), for example, is known to have affected only one person - Mrs Anne Billet, founder member and life president of the British Anti-Expectoration League. Others have had a striking effect on national culture: Red Nose Day now threatens to oust frailer native organisms such as Princess Alexandra's Rose Day. The disease is highly opportunistic, taking advantage of the enfeebled editorial vigour of its carriers. All organs of the press are susceptible; the Today radio programme has been identified as a particularly dangerous vector of infection, above all during the summer months when its immune system is weakened by a drop in MP antibodies.

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