We have always celebrated National Ice Cream Day on the third Sunday of July.
– George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four
In 1984, Ronald Reagan signed a presidential proclamation naming the third Sunday in July as National Ice Cream Day — or so the dairy-industrial complex would have us believe. But the actual text of that proclamation refers only to dates in 1984 — so where did the recurring Ice Cream Days and Ice Cream Months come from?
NOW, THEREFORE, I, RONALD REAGAN, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim July 1984 as National Ice Cream Month and July 15, 1984, as National Ice Cream Day, and I call upon the people of the United States to observe these events with appropriate ceremonies and activities.
In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this ninth day of July, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and eighty-four, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and ninth.
And why did Reagan wait until July 9 — almost a third of the way into the month — to sign this proclamation? The obvious answer, of course, is that he didn’t want to detract from National Duck Stamp Week, which ran from July 1 through July 8. But wait! Look at this:
Now, Therefore, I, Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim the week of July 1 through July 8, 1984, as National Duck Stamp Week and 1984 as the Golden Anniversary Year of the Duck Stamp. I urge all Americans to observe these occasions with appropriate ceremonies and events, including participating in this program.
In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this third day of July, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and eighty-four, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and eighth.
Do you see? National Duck Stamp Week was July 1-8, but he waited until July 3 — when the week was almost half over — to issue that proclamation. Was this a passive-aggressive means of asserting a deep-seated hostility towards commemorative dates in general? Or was the government engaged in secret ice-cream- and duck-stamp-related ceremonies and activities that the general public has no knowledge of even today?
And why do we have a National Ice Cream Day and a National Ice Cream Month, but no National Ice Cream Week? Why has there never been a National Year of Ice Cream? If there’s an entire month devoted to ice cream, why isn’t there even a single day set aside to honor hot fudge?
These are deeply troubling questions. I have, however, decided to set aside my misgivings and celebrate National Ice Cream Day with appropriate ceremonies and activities just as President Reagan may or may not have intended. If you’re in the United States today, I urge you to do the same. And if you’re not, then of course you’re not bound by our national customs, so you’ll just have to celebrate with ceremonies and activities that are inappropriate. I’m sure you’ll find a way to rise to the occasion.