Sunday, September 25, 2011

Day of Cats

The Netherlands has the fewest national holidays of most of the countries in the EU, so while Americans may grumble and roll their eyes at the luxurious holiday benefits most workplaces offer, you need to remember that there is no Martin Luther King Junior Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, or Thanksgiving. And not to mention the host of other lesser holidays--Presidents Day, Valentine's, Halloween, St, Patrick's, etc. None of these get so much as a token observance here, except via the seasonal decorative kitsch that appears in the Blokker.

 But there is one international holiday that is routinely noted, if not observed: Dierendag, or World Animal Day, as it's officially called. It falls on 4 October every year, the day of Saint Francis of Assisi (yes, the guy with all those cats). It's supposed to be a day to appreciate what animals do for us, and consequently it's no surprise that it's virtually unknown in the US.

 In the sixty-odd years that it's been celebrated in the Netherlands, Dierendag has lost its religious connection to St. Francis and gained a host of animal rights activism that tags along with any sort of "thinking about animals". On academic campus centers with animal facilities, picketers will demonstrate their opposition to animal research, and you might even get a few crazy souls preaching the virtues of a vegetarian diet. For clarification: the Dutch don't eat much meat compared to the quantities that are common in US restaurants (nobody would order a triple-burger, for instance), but they would never think about eliminating it from their diets entirely.

 It's also evolved into a day where you spoil your pet, and to make that task easier, the pet stores all have their sale-of-the-year during this time. The flyers for Dierendag appeared in our weekly junk mail assortment this week (and yes, we do go through our junk mail, because you never know when kitty litter and cat food will go on sale). Yesterday, having learned that it's a bad idea to try to haul 2/3 of your own weight in kitty litter on a bike, I took our little trusty shopper and walked to the Intratuin, with the intent of getting 40 kg (that's 88 lbs) of cat litter.

 Imagine my shock, then, to see the store getting outfitted for Christmas. Now, the kruidnoten and pepernoten (seasonal, spicy cookies) are always out early, so it didn't surprise me to see them at the grocery stores. But the Intratuin--where we get our Christmas tree ornaments--was setting up a full-sized carousel, taking down the deck chairs, and putting up Christmas ornaments. In September. Dutch culture purists can't blame the US for this one--Christmas doesn't start until Halloween.


  1. I think she was sleeping in a window basket when I took this. That, or she was squawking for treats.