National orientation can begin with occasions that symbolise and uphold society’s commitment to values, and to showcase attributes and artifacts that make us unique. It is for these reasons that I have put together 35 new informal/unofficial national holidays.
Nigerians had two work-free days recently, on June 26 and 27, to mark Eid el-Fitr – a religious holiday celebrated by Muslims everywhere at the end of Ramadan. Although the religious activities being commemorated the two days were observed in the country on Saturday or Sunday, the custom is for the federal government to declare a free work day for each holiday that falls on a weekend.
This provided an opportunity for recuperation to those who observed the month-long fast, but even many non-Muslim workers welcomed the opportunity to unwind and spend time with their families or visit Muslim friends. However, many voiced their reservations on government’s generosity with these holidays. Some observed that even more developed countries that one could say have earned such rest do not have as many work-free days as we do. Entrepreneurs would like to increase workers’ productivity, of course, while it is the weekday-off-for-a-weekend-holiday custom that irks others. 54 percent of respondents to a Twitter poll said they want more public holidays, whilst 46 percent said we already have too many work-free days. We observe many national holidays presently, mostly important ones in the history of our nation (e.g. October 1–independence anniversary, May 29–Democracy day). And although we pay lip service to being a secular nation, Christian and Islamic religious holidays feature prominently on our national calendar.
The dictionary defines holiday as a “day free from work that one may spend at leisure, especially a day on which custom or the law dictates a halting of general business activity to commemorate or celebrate a particular event”. Holidays come in various forms and serve different functions: In addition to religious observances and days of historical or national significance, they can be engineered to drive commitment to shared values. In fact, holidays are said to exhibit negative correlation with societal disintegration. Therefore, as Nigeria strives to overcome the current turbulence on its nation-building sail, we need new national rituals, and more holidays but of a different variety.
The word ritual generally carries a scary negative connotation in our society, but beyond the gory imagery that they evoke, they also describe a “set of actions that are conducted routinely in the same manner, being part of an established routine”. Many families have them: For some, it is an annual family party on December 26, or presentation of a self-portrait to a family member when they clock 40. Rituals serve as mechanisms for sustaining familial bonds through shared meanings and experiences, and reinforced value systems. Holidays and rituals can therefore help foster national integration by building and cementing social bonds, reinforcing common values, promoting and communicating moral and social order.
In addition to national anniversaries and religious recommitment holidays, mores reinforcement and heritage appreciation holidays are needed in Nigeria. National orientation can begin with occasions that symbolise and uphold society’s commitment to values, and to showcase attributes and artifacts that make us unique. It is for these reasons that I have put together 35 new informal/unofficial national holidays.
The best part is that work does not have to stop to mark these informal holidays, whereas the commemorations can drive important public conversations on our values as a people, and on those attributes that make us special. The holidays are as follows:
|SN||Unofficial/Informal Holiday Observance||Date|
|1.||National Thank Your Nanny Day
This is a day to appreciate the contribution of nannies, housekeepers and domestic caregivers who support many families.
|2.||National Ankara Day
A day to wear our colorful Ankara clothes proudly on this day. We hope the government mandates organisations in Nigeria to recognise this day in their dress codes.
|3.||National Mechanic Day
A day to appreciate the men and women who repair machines, especially our cars. What would life be without them? We would celebrate the honest and hardworking ones on this day.
|4.||National Pedestrians’ Day
This is a day set aside for motorists to yield the right of way to pedestrians. Extra care should be taken to stop at zebra crossing on this day.
|5.||National Suya Day
This should be the day set aside to appreciate our delicious evening snack and favourite Suya spots, as no other nation makes Suya like we do.
|6.||National Police Appreciation Day
A day to appreciate these men and women put themselves on the line to keep our nation free from crime. We know they need to do more, but on this day, we would celebrate all those who are serving the nation conscientiously.
|7.||National Tourism Weekend
A day set aside this day to showcase the many wonderful tourist attractions in our country, including those waiting to be discovered, and for going around to visit some of these sights.
|First Weekend in March|
|8.||National Diversity Day
This is a day to celebrate the diverse people and culture of Nigeria. Citizens are encouraged to tweet their states/villages of origin and their current home states/locations. This is to encourage national cohesion.
|9.||Roast the Government Day
This is the day for providing feedback to all tiers and arms of government through sarcastic, witty and satiric remarks.
|10.||National In-law Day
A day to celebrate your in-laws; they are the family we chose with our spouse.
|11.||Maternal Mortality Day
This is the day to call attention to this sad state of affairs. According to UNICEF, every day, Nigeria loses 145 women of childbearing age, making the country the second largest contributor to maternal mortality rate in the world.
|12.||National Lazy Saturday
A day for everyone to laze around, for relaxation, rest and recreation, which should be on the first Weekend in May.
|First Weekend in May|
|13.||Informal Greeting Day
A day citizens should be encouraged to say “How are you?” Or “What’s up?” to those to whom they would otherwise not dare to do so to. A hi-five among Nigerians would also be in order on this day.
|14.||National Debate Day
This is a day for important national conversations and public debates.
|15.||National Forgiveness Day
This follows June 12 as the day citizens are encouraged to forgive and make peace with those who have erred or wronged them, in the spirit of love and national reconciliation.
|16.||National Corn On The Cob Day
A day to celebrate the sweetness and freshness of corn, eaten boiled or roasted.
|17.||National Sleepover Day
This is a day set aside for sleeping over at friends’ places.
|Last Friday in June|
|18.||National Jollof Rice Day
A day to celebrate a national delicacy that has become an international dish.
|19.||National Friendship (Aboki) Day
It is a day for the celebration of friendship, as derived from the Hausa word ‘Aboki’.
|20.||National Know Your Neighbours Day (Day 1 of Hospitality Weekend)
A day on which citizens, especially those in the urban centres and cities who often do not get to know their neighbours, socialise, and possibly invite them over for BBQ on the following day.
|Last Saturday in July|
|21.||National Barbecue Sunday (Day 2 of Hospitality Weekend)
Following the National Know Your Neighbours Day, as one in which citizens are encouraged to host their friends and neighbours to an evening of BBQ.
|Last Sunday in July|
|22.||National Family Dinner Day
A day to make it home early, to enjoy dinner with family.
|23.||National Creativity Day
This is the day for celebrating creativity, and for people to encourage and promote creativity in one another.
|24.||National Nkwobi Day
A day for Nigerians who know not to play with Nkwobi: The bowl is deep, the bowl is shallow.
|August 29 –|
|25.||National No Litter Day
This is the day to remind ourselves not to litter the environment: This is our home, let’s keep it litter free.
|26.||National Yam Day
This is the day set aside for the celebration of various kinds of yam grown and eaten in the country.
|27.||National Vernacular Day
A day for the celebration of our numerous indigenous languages. Citizens are encouraged to speak their local languages on this day.
|28.||National Palmwine Day
This is the day for the celebration of Palm wine, a favourite local alcoholic drink.
|Last Saturday in September|
|29.||National Birth Control Day
A day to call attention to out fast growing population and the need to make conscious choices on birth control.
|30.||Indigenous Music Day
The day to celebrate our indigenous music and local musicians. This is commemorated on Fela Anikulapo Kuti’s birthday.
|31.||National Decluttering Day
A day to clean up your home, and give out old things you no longer need to orphanages and charity homes, etc. – one man’s clutter is another man’s treasure.
|Last Saturday in October|
|32.||National Danfo Day
This is the day to celebrate and encourage the folks keeping the wheels of commerce oiled in our nation, and to encourage them to be better road users.
|33.||National Pepper Soup Day
This is the day set aside for enjoying a nice bowl of pepper soup.
|34.||National Feedback Day
A national day for providing objective feedback to the important people in your life.
|35.||National Energy Saver Day
A day for citizens to be reminded of the need to conserve energy and turn off unused appliances around them.
Holidays and rituals become an important part of culture and custom with repeated observance. With time, some may come to be associated with commercial activities and carnivals, exciting feasts or unique ways of dressing and acting. As the number of participants increase, so will the commitment and passion they evoke, and so will their impact in affirming national identity.
Just like the religious faithful recommit themselves to their religious beliefs during their rituals and observances, one hopes that Nigerians can find useful rallying points around these fun unofficial national holidays.
Yemi Adesanya, an accountant and risk manager, is inventor of The Game of Giants and Jungle card games, and author of Musings of a Tangled Tongue, a collection of poems. Twitter: @toyosilagos.