This is the time of year supermarket tabloids, perhaps shy on UFO stories and celebrity shockers, headline psychics' predictions for the new year.
I haven't gone to a crystal-ball gazer. But still I know tons of things that will happen in 1998 - all courtesy of one of the media's best friends, "Chase's Calendar of Events."
Chase's is an annual compilation of holidays (official and made up), anniversary dates and notices of events. For 1998, there are more than 12,000 listings - or more than 30 for every day of the year.
For example, Jan. 1, among other things, was Trivia Day, "in celebration of those . . . who have doctorates in uselessology," and the start of Someday We'll Laugh About This Week, an unofficial observation to console those people - a majority of us - who have already broken New Year's resolutions.
It is the historical anniversary of "Amnesty for Polygamists" (granted to Mormons in 1893), and the birth anniversary of circus midget Tom Thumb (in 1838), fairy-tale author Jacob Grimm (1785) and Louis Braille (1852, inventor of the touch system of reading for the blind).
Further, January is Fat Free Living Month, Diet Month, Prune the Fat Month, Hot Tea Month, Soup Month, Oatmeal Month and Yours, Mine and Ours Month, the latter in recognition of blended families.
Chase's first calendar covered 1958. It was 32 pages, had 364 entries and sold for $1. By comparison, the '98 book has 736 pages, the already mentioned 12,000-plus entries and sells for $59.95.
The calendar was the brainchild of a newspaper librarian, William D. Chase, who worked for the Journal in Flint, Mich.
"I've always been interested in calendars," says Chase, 75, who now lives in Ann Arbor, Mich. "And very often, if it was a quiet news day, a reporter or editor would ask me what was going on in the world. They were looking for something to hang a story on."
He started filing information on anniversaries and events in a desk drawer. Then one day, it occurred to him that if his own newspaper was so hungry for story ideas, so would be other papers, radio and TV stations and public-relations agencies.
With the help of his wife, Helen, and a brother, Harrison Chase, he put out the first Chase's Calendar in December 1957. "It was very well-received," he says, "and it has grown every year."
From the start, the Chases encouraged readers to make submissions, and they began getting "invented holidays" - or "holidates," as a Chicago woman who has created 855 calls them.
"We tried to be as open and nonjudgmental as possible," Chase says. The Chases themselves, however, invented only one: Eliza Doolittle Day, celebrated the 20th of May (of course), to honor Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion heroine "for demonstrating the importance and advantage of speaking one's native language properly."
Chase sold the rights to the calendar to Contemporary Books of Chicago in 1988, but he is still an unbiased celebrant.
"I made it a rule never to have a favorite holiday," he says. "I am in favor of celebrating, and I like to observe as many as possible."
Sandy Whitley, 54 and a librarian for more than two decades, is the current calendar editor. She says about 50 new holiday suggestions are submitted each year, and that most are accepted.
"The only requirements are that they be in good taste and that they don't conflict with holidays that are already established," she says. One turned down this year contained an expletive in its title. "Bathroom humor is not allowed," Whitley says.
There is no charge for publishing the holidays, and a submission form (which can be photocopied) is found in the back of the annual book. The deadline for submissions for the 1999 calendar is May 8.
Whitley's favorite fabricated days are "ones that use the date in a clever way." One example is 911 Day, which honors emergency personnel and falls on Sept. 11 - or 9/11.
Besides the media, Whitley says the calendar is popular with college dorms and nursing homes, both of whom "use the dates to plan special meals around."
Among the most prolific holiday inventors are Tom and Ruth Roy of Mount Gretna, Pa., who have 40 dates in the '98 Chase's, including Answer Your Cat's Question Day (Jan. 16).
You can tell they really do have cats (three) by their description of the holiday. "If you will stop what you are doing and take a look at your cat, you will observe that the cat is looking at you with a serious question," they say. "Meditate on it, then answer the question."
Ruth Roy, 46, says she and her husband, who is 53, both formerly worked in radio, where they began making up holidays "as filler material." They now work for the Pennsylvania Renaissance Fair.
Among their pet days are No Housework Day (April 7), Stay Home Because You Are Well Day (Nov. 30) and Panic Day (March 9), when you should run around telling others you can't handle it anymore.
Days with a mission include Have a Bad Day Day (Nov. 19), which "combats smarmy, inefficient store clerks who are always telling you to `Have a nice day,' " Roy says. "We like to refute that kind of stupidity."
National Brutus Day (March 15, natch) recognizes "the plotting and back-stabbing that goes on in almost every place of work."
The Roys are planning a calendar of their holidays, and Roy is working on a book about how to observe them. The book will include recipes, she says.
Adrienne Sioux Koopersmith is a Chicago cartoonist and writer who began creating "holidates" with a vengeance five years ago after being "beat up, robbed and left for dead in the lobby of my apartment building."
Before that event, she had had her apartment burglarized four times, been mugged five times and endured "a bout of domestic violence," Koopersmith says, and her first holidays had crime-prevention themes. 911 Day is her invention.
Now she calls herself an "eventologist," having created 855 days, covering virtually all subjects. Her 38 listings in the current Chase's include Pay-a-Compliment Day (Feb. 6), National Smith Day (Jan. 6), "for people with the commonest surname in the English-speaking world," and Hug a GI Day on March 4, "the only calendrical date which is also a command."
Another name that frequently pops up in the calendar is Robert Birch of Falls Church, Va., a retired government worker who describes himself as "approaching 92 - from 25 years away" and leader of the Puns Corps.
Among dates he has founded are Moth-er Day (March 14), set aside to honor moth collectors, and Compliment-Your-Mirror Day (July 3), which ideally should smile back.
Mario Fascitelli, an Albuquerque, N.M., real-estate agent, notes that you can abbreviate March 10 to Mar10 - close enough for him to proclaim it Mario Day.
"The holiday has been around since the inception of the Julian calendar," says Fascitelli, 56, "but discovering it was like finding `Waldo.' " He believes it to be "the only day of the year that spells out a man's name."
Then there's the Betty Picnic, held annually on the second Saturday in June (the 13th this year) at Tom Pierce Park in Grants Pass, Ore.
The potluck-style event - which drew 50 Bettys last year - was started in 1986 by Betty Wilder and Betty Patterson "to celebrate the Bettys of this world for their vivacity, impulsiveness and similarities."
Patterson, 67, says their Betty group, which also publishes a newsletter, has 120 to 150 members from all over the country. There are separate Betty chapters in Reno, Nev., and St. George, Utah.
Coming just four days before Valentine's Day, Dump Your "Significant Jerk" Day (Feb. 10) may seem a bit cruel. But Marcus P. Melton Jr. of Costa Mesa, Calif., says he created the day to help abolish bad relationships he himself may have helped start.
Melton, 40, an engineer who worked for Texas Instruments in the mid-'80s, wrote a book several years ago. He says it "teaches guys how to get a police record and develop drinking problems so that women can save them."
Now he's worried that Valentine's Day "is going to be a disaster" for couples he might have brought together, he says, "so I decided to develop a day when you'd evaluate your relationships."
Melton also started Vote Lawyers Out of Office Day (April 7).
Plan Your Epitaph Day (April 6), created by Lance Hardie of Arcata, Calif., is dedicated to the proposition that "a forgettable gravestone is a fate worse than death."
As with January, most months are dedicated to several topics. For example, February is Creative Romance Month, International Embroidery Month and Return Shopping Carts to the Supermarket Month.
March's folio of designations includes National Umbrella Month, National Sauce Month and Talk With Your Teen About Sex Month.
Chase's Calendar reminders of significant dates cover a wide range of topics, not just the historical. Consider yesterday's anniversaries, for example: On Jan. 4, 1896, Utah became the 45th state, and Jan. 4, 1984, was the premiere of TV's "Night Court." As to which is most significant, "Night Court" gets 17 lines, Utah statehood, 2.
Chase's Calendar can be found at bookstores and in public libraries.