Today is National Peking Duck Day! Chinese-food enthusiasts would argue that every day is Peking duck day, as would, one imagines, the numerous restaurant owners who keep an array of the glistening fowl hanging in their windows 24/7. It’s easy to understand the devotion to its exceedingly crisp skin and delicious flesh. What’s less clear is who came up with the idea of designating January 18 as the day for Americans to worship at the Peking duck altar, or why.

Of course, every single day this month is some kind of national food day, from Chocolate-Filled Cherry Day (January 3) to Curried Chicken Day (January 12) and on to National Granola Day (January 20). And as goes January, so goes the rest of the year. There is not one day of 2012 that won’t ask you to celebrate something edible, no matter how disinclined you are to consider its existence the other 364. If you don’t think date-nut bread needs its own day, you are wrong (it’s September 8). If you are under the impression that December 30 is merely the penultimate day of the year and not a 24-hour period dedicated to the canonization of bicarbonate of soda, you may as well crawl into a corner and die of shame. And if you hold the belief that July 4’s only purpose is to celebrate charred meat and illegal fireworks, then your world is a pitifully small one. It’s National Caesar Salad Day.

True, some of these designations are less dubious than others. July, for example, lends itself to both National Hot Dog and National Ice Cream Month, and Good Friday is an ideal fit for National Hot Cross Bun Day. But regardless of their degrees of apparent randomness, all of these designations have one thing in common: They owe their existence to actual governmental bodies. The president has the authority to declare commemorative days by proclamation, and state legislatures, governors, and mayors also can authorize days of observance for things like corn chips and fettuccine Alfredo.

Less surprising than the idea of President Obama taking time out from blocking the Keystone oil pipeline to encourage Americans to enjoy, say, hot buttered rum, is where these holidays originate—typically trade associations or public relations firms that want to bring attention (and cash) to their products. It’s kind of like how the greeting card industry invented Sweetest Day, but with heartburn. And just as we’re told we shouldn’t need one day of the year to be nice to our significant other, events like National Peking Duck Day are a reminder that while food doesn’t ever take a holiday, it would be nice if its more blatantly commercial aspects would.

Image source: Flickr member jshansen under Creative Commons

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