Happy New Year! It’s the first day of the first month of the Gregorian calendar year, Anno Domini 2009. It’s also Haitian Independence Day, it’s J.D. Salinger’s birthday, it’s the Rose Bowl and it’s the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution.
Oh, and January 1 is the start of National Hot Tea Month.
I’ve been looking through Chase’s Calendar of Events, a standard library reference book that celebrates its 51st anniversary this year. William D. Chase, a newspaper librarian, started keeping a file of calendar events, holidays and anniversaries, using it to help writers and editors make their deadlines and fill some columns. With the help of his brother, wife and children, the file became a book and a self-publishing success story that’s in just about every library. Google is fantastic, but Chase’s was designed by a librarian to perfectly answer the question — what’s important about today?
Over the years, Mr. and Mrs. Chase selected historical events they thought worthy of notice and wrote little entries for them. They accepted submissions for special days from groups looking to promote an idea or product. Mr. Chase has said they deliberately added a “whimsical” quality to a book that would otherwise be a dry compilation of dates and events. The end result mixes the profound and the picayune for a surprisingly enjoyable browse.
Discovering someone declared January to be California Dried Plum Digestive Health Month makes me laugh. But reading that January 1 has only been observed as New Year’s Day since “the British Calendar Act of 1751, prior to which the New year began March 25th” makes me curious. What? You mean January 1 hasn’t always been New Year’s Day? Hmm, I need to look this up.
Chase’s Calendar of Events comes with a searchable CD-ROM but no online version; so if you want to know what else happened on your birthday, you’ll have to come to the library OR you can post your birthdate (year optional) in the comments area . When the library reopens on Friday, January 2, I’ll check Chase’s to see who or what shares your special day.
June 20 – “LIZZIE BORDEN VERDICT: ANNIVERSARY Spectators at her trial cheered when the “not guilty” verdict was read by the jury foreman in the murder trial of Lizzie Borden on this date.”
Wait — they cheered? Didn’t she give her mother 40 whacks? Excuse me, I need to go look this up.