It was easy for Jim and Inge Johnston to have today declared Hug Holiday. All they had to do was get it listed in Chase's Annual Events, and it immediately acquired as much official status as it would ever need.
"A lot of people have the impression that special days can only be created by the president or Congress," says William Chase. "Yet businesses have been doing it for many years. We simply provide a vehicle for ordinary people to do the same thing."
For nearly three decades, Chase and his wife, Helen, of Ann Arbor, Mich., have been compiling their "calendar of holidays, holy days, national and ethnic days, seasons, astronomical phenomena, festivals and fairs, anniversaries, birthdays, special events and traditional observances of all kinds."
*They're accepting listings for their 1987 edition until June 30.
"We're very easy to please. It's our aim to present as broad a spectrum as possible of the things going on in the coming year," says Chase. That probably explains the inclusion of Buzzards Day (March 15, when the buzzards traditionally return to Hinckley, Ohio); Ask a "Stupid" Question Day (officially Sept. 30, although some people claim this day is celebrated all year long) and National Failure's Day (Aug. 15).
Chase, now 64, was working at the Flint, Mich., Journal in the mid-1950s when he noticed a perennial newspaper question -- "What are the special events going on this week?" -- had no easy answers. The government published a small booklet on the subject, but it was essentially limited to commercial promotions.
In 1957 the Chases put out their own booklet, which contained 364 events. Its immediate popularity led to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce asking in 1958 if the couple would be interested in taking over the government publication. In spite of such support, Chase's has no federal authority, and if you tell your boss you have to take tomorrow off because it's the 14th anniversary of the Watergate break-in, chances are he's going to look at you askance.
*The American penchant for holidays and celebrations -- the 1986 Chase's lists 5,573 -- has been criticized for putting entertainment above work, and for trivializing important observances at the expense of the semi-ridiculous.
Not so, says Chase. "These are not celebrations in the sense of idleness, and most of our entries have an enlightening aspect to them. We list a great many health-related events, which tend to focus attention on the understanding and control of medical problems. And although other events may appear whimsical or tongue in cheek, they bring attention to important ideas or concepts."
In its diversity and inclusiveness, the compilation is an exhaustive guide to the country's ideals and passions. Says Chase: "If someone picks up our book 100 years from now, they'll have a pretty good feeling for American civilization in the year 1986."
*To suggest a listing for the 1987 edition of Chase's Annual Events, send the exact name of the event, its place of observance, the date, its purpose and the name and address of the sponsor to Chase's Calendar Editor, Box 7335 -- Liberty Station, Ann Arbor, Mich. 48107.