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Last month, Gizmodo got an email from WastewaterSCAN, a company that monitors sewage for traces of infectious disease. The outfit had a pitch for us: February 12th is “National Poop Day,” the company said. Would we like to talk to an expert for our Poop Day coverage?
Here’s the problem: today is February 12th, but it’s not National Poop Day, and I’ll tell you why: it’s because that is not a real thing. Enough is enough. Corporate America would have you believe that every day is special, and the truth is, we media workers lap this stuff up like pigs at a trough. Not me, of course. I’m better than that. At least I’d like to pretend I am, but ironic distance can’t hide the facts. I took the bait, and now we’re both here, thinking about Poop Day together.
Today isn’t just National Poop Day, though. It’s National Plum Pudding Day, the day we remember delicious Plum Pudding. It’s also Georgia Day, Clean Out Your Computer Day, Hug Day, and, of course, Oatmeal Monday. Today is the first day of Carnival. It’s the anniversary of the day the Senate Acquitted former President Bill Clinton. 100 years ago today, “Rhapsody In Blue” premiered in New York City for the very first time. On February 12th, we celebrate the birthdays of Arsenio Hall, Josh Brolin, Judy Blume, Charles Darwin, Abraham Lincoln, Gucci Mane, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and Christina Ricci. For some dedicated Christians, today is also Shrove Monday, the Monday before Ash Wednesday, although the celebration of Shrove Tuesday is more common in most countries.
But why, out of all the 52 Mondays, is this one National Poop Day? Technically, it’s because yesterday was the Super Bowl, and historically, the day that follows is the day municipal sewer systems get the most… traffic. At least, that’s what WastewaterSCAN told me. And it’s kind of true, but not really.
Las Vegas is hosting Super Bowl LVIII, and the city posted about the coming flood on its X/Twitter account. According to Las Vegas, its sewers get about 30% more “flow” on busy days. However, the day after the Super Bowl is traditionally the second busiest day of the year, not the first, Las Vegas wrote. It turns out that Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, usually takes the number one spot for number twos, which makes sense if you think about it. But “with #SBLVIII in Las Vegas this year, will it be the busiest ever?” If you’re reading this on February 12th, the city of Las Vegas is figuring that out right now.
Either way, Las Vegas is ready. I called the Southern Nevada Water Authority, and a friendly spokesperson said that every gallon of water that goes into Las Vegas’s treatment plants gets recycled and returned to the blue expanse of Lake Mead. Imagine that. What happens in Vegas stays in Lake Mead. It’s a critical infrastructure project for the desert city, and an influx of wastewater like today’s is something the SNWA takes seriously.
That doesn’t explain where Poop Day comes from, though. Someone has to decide to give the day its special designation, whether it’s the second busiest day for poop or the first. I’m not satisfied with a mystery, so I put on the song “National Poop Day” by American Fart Band and got to work.
“Well, it’s not Poop Day to us, because we don’t recognize it,” said Holly McGuire, Editor in Chief of Chase’s Calendar of Events. “I haven’t heard of it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a thing.”
Chase’s Calendar is perhaps the world’s leading authority on what you might call “nontraditional” holidays. In 1957, brothers Bill and Harrison Chase decided the world needed “a single reference source for calendar dates, and for authoritative and current information about various observances throughout the year.” They printed 2,000 copies of their compendium of special days, weeks, and months, and sold them for a dollar apiece. Today, Chase’s sells its calendar of over 12,500 entries to media companies, marketers, and other holiday fans, and it fields submissions from people and organizations who want to promote days of their own.
Poop Day isn’t on Chase’s radar, though. McGuire doesn’t just let any old day make it into the calendar, and some days have a harder time than others. “We generally reject submissions that are more, you know, scatological or biological. We’re not going to put Booger Day or Vomit Day in the book,” McGuire said. “That’s mainly because it’s bad taste, but also because when you get a submission like that it tends to be from kids or people who aren’t serious. Usually, they’re just yankin’ our chain.”
The same goes for the National Day Calendar, one of Chase’s biggest competitors. “Do we really want ‘Poop’ in our printed wall and desk calendars,” asked Amy Monette, the National Day Calendar’s CEO, in an email. The answer is no. However, “we do have World Plumbing Day (March 11th) on the calendar, which is pretty much the same topic.”
With February 12th looming, I doubled back on my investigation. WastewaterSCAN politely declined to comment for this article, but the company did tell me that it didn’t invent National Poop Day. That honor, WastewaterSCAN said, belongs to the Madison Wisconsin’s Children Museum.
Unlike Chase’s and the National Day Calendar, another similarly-named calendar does recognize Poop Day. A listing on the NationalToday.com confirmed the origin story. It seemed like I had my answer.
“Alas, we did not invent Poop Day, but we might have perfected it,” said Jonathan Zarov, Communications Director at the Madison Children’s Museum.
Every year, the museum holds an election to help kids practice their civic skills. Usually, the democracy-loving youths vote on which exhibits the museum should hold. But back in 2016, the museum heard about Poop Day and decided it would be a great election topic. “Poop Day made it on the referendum, and of course, the kids voted it in overwhelmingly,” Zarov said. But where, exactly, did the museum hear about it? Zarov had no idea.
The Children’s Museum celebrated Poop Day for years, though technically, it celebrated Poop Day Observed on the Saturday after the Super Bowl because the museum is closed on Mondays. The museum held events where kids could learn about the human digestive system and study animal scat under a microscope. Gross, but cool. The Madison Area Herpetological Society even showed up for seminars on reptile droppings. “For one adult event, we had the sewage district serve some of the special beer they had made out of sanitized sewage water,” Zarov said.
Poop Day always had fans among the staff, but it had detractors too, and the museum stopped celebrating the fecal holiday sometime before the pandemic. Zarov couldn’t remember exactly when. Condolences to the children of Madison.
By February 8th, National Kite Flying Day, my editor was starting to breathe down my neck. People don’t mind working on the weekend for a big story, but an article about a day about poop might not warrant the overtime, so I needed to turn in a draft.
There was only one place left to look. Some Google sleuthing suggested that NationalToday.com first posted about Poop Day in 2002, and as far as I could tell, that’s the first time the holiday was mentioned on the internet. But when I emailed the company, no one wrote back. I’m sorry to say I hit a wall. My email is easy to find if you have a tip. Otherwise, if you’ve read this far, it’s probably clear that no one is going to take Poop Day this seriously ever again. The story of the first National Poop Day may be lost to the sands of time.
The only thing dumber than a quixotic search for Poop Day’s beginnings is the fact that Poop Day exists in the first place. The whole thing is based on a lie. Are we supposed to be impressed by the second-largest amount of poop of the year? Besides, what good is a holiday when dozens of others happen simultaneously? You can’t set time aside when all the time is already spoken for.
Depending on who you ask, there are no less than 36 holidays on February 12th. It’s too many. We have reached peak day. McGuire told me that Chase’s has several criteria days have to meet before the calendar accepts a day into its ranks. One of those stipulations is there needs to be an organization to take responsibility for the day and celebrate it with the care it deserves, but Poop Day is an orphan. Yet Poop Day marches on. With a field of other calendars with less exacting standards, it seems anyone can have a day of their own. Thanks to credulous journalists like me, you can use your imaginary holiday to drum up a little press coverage. In that sense, maybe Poop Day was my fault all along.