Nuts for everyone! 

Ellen Futterman, Editor of the St. Louis Jewish Light

BY ELLEN FUTTERMAN

For as long as I can remember, I have always loved birthdays – friends, family members, acquaintances, presidents, civil rights leaders and of course, mine. I know a lot of people who would rather not celebrate their birthday at all, or keep whatever celebration they do have low-key. That’s their prerogative and I respect that, but it’s not me. I believe in birthdays (consider the alternative!) and birthday celebrations. And I believe in celebrating for a while. That’s why October among my friends and family is also known as the Month of Ellen. 

Lately I noticed I have a lot of competition. October, it seems, observes a growing list of causes and awarenesses, including AIDS Awareness Month, Book Month and Selective Mutism Awareness Month. May, however, leads the pack with 37 month-long commemorations, including Jewish American Heritage Month, Recommitment Month and Revise Your Work Schedule Month. I promise I didn’t make up the last one but I sure plan to observe it come May.

October, also, is Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM). Observed since 1985, BCAM is probably the best known among the hundreds of diseases and causes with their own month, as it seeks to raise awareness of breast cancer and funds for its prevention, treatment and cure. Throughout the month, literally dozens of world-famous landmarks are bathed in pink – the color readily identified with breast cancer – including the Gateway Arch, the Empire State Building in New York and City Hall in Reykjavik, Iceland.

Like breast cancer, many of the diseases and causes now with a commemorative month have been recognized by presidential or Congressional proclamation. However, others – and there are lots of them, too — rely on non-governmental agencies to draw attention to their cause. And what better way to do just that than to declare a certain month as your organization’s awareness month? How else do you explain September as Library Card Sign-up Month?

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As a longtime editor, I regularly get calls from various entities wanting publicity because it’s “their” organization’s month. Years ago I conceded because I worried that without help, no one would know that, say, December is Political Correctness Month or April is both Mathematics Awareness Month AND Mathematics Education Month (???). But nowadays with so many commemorative months, not to mention weeks and days, there just isn’t enough time, newsprint or interest to go around. 

Don’t get me wrong, I feel bad about this. I am concerned that January 28 is likely to come and go without anyone recognizing National Potato Day. Or that February will be over without some special celebration to mark Return Shopping Carts to the Supermarket Month or Typewriter Appreciation Month. Or that Celebrate Your Name Week, which takes place the first full week of March, will eventually be forgotten. But I feel helpless to do anything about this because if I do for one, I will have to do for all. 

Like breast cancer, many of the diseases that now command awareness months aren’t at all frivolous. They certainly deserve attention and publicity. But the thing is the list has just gotten out of hand; there isn’t a disease or medical condition, physical or mental, without its own month. And when you add social causes, political causes, economic causes and every heritage known to human and animal kind, the whole commemoration thing becomes laughable (especially in July, which is National Tickling Month).

So I’ve decided that I will no longer celebrate October as the Month of Ellen. Like most of the world, I will scale back the tribute of me to just one day. That will allow you not to be distracted from continuing to celebrate the rest of October as Squirrel Appreciation Month.