A Red Letter Day

By Storm Stoker, Technical Services Support Specialist

Do you have a special day, week, or month you want recognized every year? Maybe you want April 30th to be National Coffee Day.  Many nonprofits seek a declaration of a national day, week, or month to bring awareness to their cause and raise money.  For example, in the library field, this month we will have National Library Week from April 19-25, 2020. The theme this year is “Find your place at the library.” Sadly, this year because of the pandemic, your “place at the library” may be online only, though students can still access our campus libraries for the time being.  I hope this year shows everyone just how valuable libraries are, as patrons continue to access ebooks, movies, music, video games, virtual storytimes, and activities, reference, research help and so much more, from the safety of their homes.

There are a couple different ways to get a day, week, or month recognized nationally.  You can submit an application to the  National Day Calendar, but of the 20,000 applications they receive per year; only about 35 are honored and they only honor applications that come from organizations.  There go my plans for creating National Buy Storm Stoker A Coffee Day. Drat!

When I was on the board of the Association of Hawaiʻi Archivists, we wanted the governor to recognize October as National Archives Month. The governor of each state will recognize events with a day, week, or month if they have a significant impact for residents of that state.  They also do this to raise awareness about a worthy cause.  It was AHA’s 30th anniversary, so we wrote up a proclamation using the template provided on the governor’s website and if your request meets all the guidelines, as ours did, your application gets approved. You receive your document with an official seal for display, and you can even request that, schedule permitting, the governor attend an event that you have in association with your proclamation.

So why are special days or holidays called “red letter days?” In medieval manuscripts, the feast days or special days on the calendar were written in red ink.  The first letter or capital was often intricate to highlight or explain the special meaning of that day.  The practice continued even after the invention of the printing press when printing Catholic liturgical books. Even today calendars still indicate special dates and holidays in red rather than black ink, a practice that goes back as far as 500 B.C. A red or scarlet day is always a good day, so I hope today is a red letter day for all of you.

Red Letter Days for April:

Medieval manuscript
Example of Medieval Manuscript, red letter days

British Library, https://www.bl.uk/medieval-english-french-manuscripts/articles/medieval-calendars (retrieved 4/1/20)
Holiday Insights, http://www.holidayinsights.com (retrieved 4/1/20)

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