Happy Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The Pennsylvania House of Representatives will be considering proclaiming it when the General Assembly reconvenes Oct. 6 — along with 10 other resolutions to designate October “National [Something] Month.”
Yes, from becoming aware of muscular dystrophy and seeing our chiropractor to meeting the blind and honoring disabled workers, October may turn out to be a busy time indeed.
All this, while we’re barely nearing the end of National Hispanic Heritage Month, which must at least be given creative credit for running Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. Surely it is strange that we try to recognize October — and every other month — as so many vastly different things. Why do we, societally, participate in this folly?
To be clear, it is perfectly understandable from the perspective of the organizations that push for this recognition, and the lawmakers who intend to make them official. It is sensible for a civic organization, say, encouraging fire prevention, to focus its efforts around a particular time of year. For a representative, passing a resolution to keep a constituent happy is a vote cheaply earned, since a resolution designating a month as special has essentially no legal meaning.
No, the truly strange thing is that so many people actually care what the flavors of the month are. Water cooler talk, blog posts, and even the PECO Building rarely fail to discuss them. When the designation is racially charged, as with Black History Month, it becomes almost a social faux pas not to pay lip service to the establishment — no matter what one’s actual feelings may be. (If racial history were a meaningful category, separate from the great thread of history that connects us all, it would surely be interesting every day of the year just as ordinary history is — but yours truly, as a history major, is somewhat biased.)
Perhaps it can be ascribed to that innate fondness for national holidays that seems inherent to us Americans, but the phenomenon is not entirely unheard of among other nations. Whatever the origin, it is a practice that can easily get out of hand. Let me present a cautionary tale.
In the Roman Catholic Church we celebrate the lives of saints, individuals who lived their lives with a superior degree of Catholicity and whom can be called upon to intercede on behalf of us mere sinners. Every saint gets their own feast day, and they are collectively celebrated on All Saints’ Day — Nov. 1.
As you can imagine, over the course of a 2000-year tradition or even just the rough millennium in which they have been formally canonized, the amount of saints worshipped across the globe has grown to be uncountable.
Now, we Catholics have always been at the forefront of calendar reform, accounting for the precise time the earth takes to orbit the sun decades before arresting Galileo for professing such a heretical and utterly ridiculous belief—but even with the strict vetting process for holy men that exists nowadays, the Gregorian calendar still cannot contain a unique feast day for each saint.
If St. Katharine Drexel must endure sharing a feast day with St. Cunigunde of Luxembourg (March 3) only for dire lack of days in the year and a need to continue a holy tradition, then why would we voluntarily cram a dozen different causes into every month and week of the year? If these causes are really important to us, we should celebrate them throughout the year — as, it should be noted, good Catholics do with saints.
Kim Post is the co-chief copy editor of The Triangle. He can be contacted at [email protected].