When is the last time you hugged a brick, saluted your pet or congratulated your egg salad?
An official proclamation signed by Mayor Marion Barry, printed on parchment paper and stamped with a gold foil seal of the city, called on District residents to join in celebrating "Brick Week," proclaimed June 10-16 last year, "in order to reemphasize to each citizen the importance of bricks."
April of this year was proclaimed "Pets are Wonderful Month," and May witnessed proclamations recognizing "Missing Children's Day" and "Loyalty Day."
More conscientious calendar watchers will want to keep an eye out for "Social Security Day" and "Stevie Wonder Day," which will be coming up later this year.
Two years ago, "Egg Salad Week" was proclaimed in appreciation of the "flavorful, versatile, economic and nutritious derivation of the abundance of eggs."
Each year the mayor's office issues more than 1,000 proclamations, letters of congratulation, and other ceremonial pronouncements -- some of dubious importance.
Other red-letter city dates in the past two years have included, "Bulgarian Day," "Cagney and Lacey Day," "Right Stuff Day" and "Courtesy is Contagious Month.
"Clown Week," (calling upon all residents to join in recognizing the many contributions made by clowns), "Mahatma Gandhi Day," "Dr. Seuss Day" and "That's Incredible Day" also were celebrated.
There has been "Bertha Smith Day," named in honor of a downtown hotel cook, "Second Genesis Day" in honor of a local drug rehabilitation program and "Tero Mauldin Coleman Day," honoring a 97-year-old Northwest volunteer who directs a food distribution program for her church.
In fact, there are more proclamations than there are days in the year, a feat staffers in the Office of Ceremonial Services (the proclamations office) are at a loss to explain.
Like free advice, politicians and local officials have been doling out proclamations upon request for years.
The District's proclamation mill is part of a public relations campaign to attract business and promote the city's "uniqueness," according to Kathryn Perry, who ghostwrites most of the proclamations. "It is an inexpensive way for the mayor to say, 'Thanks so much for bringing your money into our town,' " Perry said as she peered over stacks of proclamation requests covering her desk.
Phil Ogilvie, director of the office, said proclamations enable the mayor to be in several places at one time and keep in touch with constituents.
"The major function of the proclamation is to create good will," Ogilvie said.
"It's also a good idea because while the mayor is in one place, his cabinet members can be representing him in several other places with a proclamation," he said.
Despite the heavyweight official stationery and the fancy gold lettering, most proclamations are born of humble beginnings.
Perry said anyone can apply to have a day, week, or month -- or on rare occasions an entire year -- named in someone's honor merely by writing the mayor.
"We would hope that the proclamations honor someone that has done something for the city," Perry said. "For every egg salad week request we get, we get several from local churches, ministers, volunteer groups that really deserve it."
If a request is deemed unworthy of a proclamation, a less prestigious letter of congratulations can be issued instead.
Once a request is approved, it goes to another office that makes sure the proclamation is neither offensive nor in conflict with administration policy.
"Out of every 10 or 15 decent requests, we get at least that many yahoos asking for a day in their honor." Perry said, "If we see a request come in with the name of the grand lizard of the KKK on the letterhead, we would shunt that one aside but we would still have to send them a letter to explain why we can't honor their request."
After several drafts, the proclamation is printed on the parchment with a small gold foil seal of the city and the mayor signs it.
If Barry presents the proclamation, the recipient gets a bigger version. The mayor gives away the 11-by-16 size. Lesser city officials present the 8 1/2-by-11 version.
Although the proclamations are a fleeting honor, Bena W. Cooper of Northeast, who celebrated her 100th birthday recently, said she would not soon forget the thrill of having June 15 named "Bena W. Cooper Day."
"It feels good to have a day named in your honor," Cooper said of the proclamation, which cited her as "one of the truly young at heart."
"I had a big celebration with friends and the mayor, and there were a lot of people there and a lot of cards and flowers and money," she recalled.
"If I'm still living next year," Cooper added, "I will be glad to celebrate it again.