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The Official Origin of
Our Holidays and Celebrations


People love holidays and celebrations. Throughout history, every culture, every society and every religion has always had special days and observances. But where do all these holiday originate?

To find out, I interviewed Alphonse Featherstonehaugh Hipplehauser of the World Holiday Federation.

Harley Hahn: Mr. Hipplehauser, most people are not even aware of the existence of the World Holiday Federation. Could you please tell us something about your organization?

Alphonse F. Hipplehauser: I sure can, Harley, but before we start, have you visited our Web site?

Harley: Yes, that's how I found you. However, it's possible that some of my readers haven't seen your site, so could you please take a few moments to give us some background information on the WHF.

AFH: Well, Harley, the World Holiday Foundation is a large, very old group of international experts and scholars whose job it is to govern the celebration of holidays around the world. In particular, we keep the global holiday situation from becoming chaotic by carefully overseeing the creation of new holidays. We also go to great lengths to make sure that the holidays we approve are not overly commercialized.

Harley: How do you mean?

AFH: Well, take your typical holiday. It doesn't just come into being from nothing. Before a new holiday can be recognized, it must be analyzed and approved by the WHF. The people creating the holiday submit a detailed application, which is reviewed carefully by a panel of distinguished experts. The job of this panel is to balance all the issues involved in the application, and to make a recommendation to the WHF Board of Governors.

Harley: And then what happens?

AFH: The Board of Governors holds a series of deliberations, at which time they may request further information as well as hear specific testimony. Then, if they approve, the application is put before the World Holiday Foundation as a whole. A vote is taken, and, if a two-thirds approval is forthcoming, the holiday is declared official and assigned a date.

Harley: And that's it?

AFH: Except for the nominal fee paid by the applicants.

Harley: Nominal fee?

AFH: You know, to cover our expenses — research and so on.

Harley: I see. Now, you mentioned earlier, Mr. Hipplehauser, that the World Holiday Foundation has been around for some time.

AFH: That's right. The WHF is a very old, distinguished organization. I think you could even go so far as to call us highly traditional. We are very, very careful as to which holidays we approve and what changes we allow.

Harley: And you keep things as non-commercial as possible?

AFH: That's right.

Harley: Well, in 1939, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving from the last Thursday in November, to the fourth Thursday in November. He did it at the request of the head of the Federated Department Stores company in order to create a longer Christmas shopping season. You said that you try to keep holidays as non-commercial as possible. What was your position was in 1939 when Roosevelt made the change? Did he come to you for permission?

AFH: No doubt that he would have, had our services been available, but 1939 was just a bit before our time. Our roots do go way back, as I mentioned, but we did have to spend a considerable amount of time organizing and so on, and we weren't quite ready in 1939 when Roosevelt made that decision.

Harley: What about in 1996, when the Black Studies scholar Maulana Karenga created the seven-day Kwanzaa festival for the African-American community? Did you work with Karenga at all?

AFH: Well... again, we were still organizing and we hadn't quite got the whole organization set up at that time.

Harley: Mr. Hipplehauser, exactly how old is the World Holiday Federation?

AFH: It's hard to give an exact answer. Perhaps you would find it more interesting if I gave you an example of how we work.

Harley: Okay.

AFH: When is your birthday?

Harley: My birthday is December 21.

AFH: Have you ever thought about making your birthday an international holiday?

Harley: My birthday?

AFH: Sure. For a nominal fee of, say, $500,000 a year, we could arrange to have your birthday declared an international holiday that would be celebrated around the world.

Harley: I thought the World Holiday Federation can't approve a new holiday without a lot of paperwork and hearings and so forth.

AFH: That's true as a rule. But there are special provisions in our charter that allow the president of the WHF to make certain executive decisions on his own. Now, I have this contract, and if you were to sign right here, I could—

Harley: I don't know, Mr. Hipplehauser, $500,000 a year seems like a lot of money.

AFH: Perhaps you would be interested in our special personal-sharing-plan, or PSP as we call it. Now your birthday is December 21. I see by my chart here that you share this birthday with Jane Fonda, and Frank Zappa. If each of you could pay $125,000 a year, I could probably arrange a shared holiday. Or, if you prefer, we could alternate, so that your personal holiday would be once every three years.

Harley: But Frank Zappa is dead.

AFH: So he is. Well, we could make a special arrangement. If you and Jane Fonda each pay $100,000 a year, I could probably convince the Board of Governors to go along with it, and as a personal favor, I could throw in Frank Zappa for free.

Harley: $100,000 a year? That's still a lot of money. Anyway, I'm not sure I could get Jane Fonda to go along with it.

AFH: In that case, I bet you'd be interested in our special time-sharing plan.

Harley: Time-sharing plan?

AFH: Yes. We at the World Holiday Federation recognize that some people must work with a limited budget, so we have developed a unique time-sharing approach to holiday creation. You may not have $100,000 a year to pay for your own holiday, but for an annual payment of, say, $75,000, I could get you part of a day. In your case, I could arrange an official international holiday in your honor every December 21 from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Just sign here, and I'll fill in all the details later.

Harley: I can see that that's a bargain and I appreciate your offer Mr. Hipplehauser, but still, I don't think I'm ready to commit to $75,000 a year.

AFH: Well, what amount would you feel comfortable with?

Harley: I hadn't really thought about it actually. Maybe fifty dollars a year.

AFH: Fifty dollars! Hmmm... I'd have to bend the rules, but I like you, so I'll tell you what I'll do. For fifty dollars a year, I'll set up a Harley Hahn Minute around the world: December 21, from 9:00 AM to 9:01 AM. Here's the contract.

Harley: Hold on a moment. I thought you couldn't make a new holiday until your panel of experts has had time to review a detailed application. And then you have to hold hearings and let the entire World Holiday Foundation vote on it.

AFH: All true. Very true. But as I mentioned, in certain exceptional circumstances, the president is allowed to make an executive decision. It might take a long time if we had to wait for everyone in the World Holiday Foundation to vote, so, to help you out, I'm prepared to expedite your application.

Harley: Mr. Hipplehauser, you never told us how many people there are in the WHF.

AFH: You mean overall?

Harley: Yes.

AFH: Hmmm... let's see... counting all the researchers, scholars and administrators — overall, the total number of people is... one.

Harley: One!

AFH: Yes, but we are growing fast.

Harley: And exactly how old is your organization?

AFH: Actually, it's a lot younger than you might think. We have been able to make a great deal of progress in a relatively short time.

Harley: So how old? Twenty years? Ten?

AFH: Well... to be perfectly frank... one day.

Harley: One day?

AFH: Almost a day. I put up the Web site last night.

[Pause]

Harley: Well, I guess this wraps up the interview Mr. Hipplehauser. Thank you for your time.

AFH: What a minute — does that mean you're not interested in a personal holiday? I have an idea. As long an you're here, why don't we give Jane Fonda a call and see what she thinks?