Alexandria, VA – Last year, eighth-grader Stephanie Kulinski and her friends happened upon an app that listed all the days of national and international holidays, including both common and obscure subjects, and they got a kick out of looking them up from time to time.
One day in late March, after the pandemic had cancelled school and all activities, Stephanie was home, rather bored, and looked up the day’s holiday: International Mermaid Day. She told her mom, “We should go write this at the end of our driveway!”
Honoring the unusual observance with a driveway chalk drawing could have ended there, but it didn’t. Five months later, the family has continued to celebrate daily holidays, observances, and international days, with food, a fun-facts lesson, and themed music via Alexa. And the daily driveway chalk drawing, of course.
Karin Kulinski, Stephanie’s mother, said, “Parenting blogs often show these family rituals where they pick a random holiday and celebrate as a family.” She always thought it sounded like a great idea and maybe something to do if she ever suddenly had a lot of time on her hands, which wasn’t going to be anytime soon—or so she thought. A commercial pilot, Karin traveled so much that she often had to ask her kids what day it was. And then, the world stopped.
The day after International Mermaid Day was Eiffel Tower Day, their first full celebration with food. They made French fries, French toast, and French onion dip, embracing as many bad food puns as possible. They took photos and posted on Facebook.
Karin recognized right away what a boon the idea was. As the mother of three girls, ages 10, 14, and 17, she explained, “We needed to fill the time, make the days more fun, and do something different.” All around them, friends and neighbors were falling into a Groundhog Day redundancy. But, for the Kulinskis, every day had a new outlook: Etch-A-Sketch Day, Guinea Pig Day, Nelson Mandela Day, Root Canal Appreciation Day, Peach Ice Cream Day, National Zipper Day.
On National Daiquiri Day, Karin posted, “These holidays have been such a wonderful educational experience. Taught the girls how to make daiquiris today, which will help them in college. And if this whole college thing doesn’t work out, it could help with bartending. Is this considered synchronous learning?”
Stephanie has led the family through the challenges with her 10-year-old sister Natalie’s help and, of course, Karin’s final approval. Oldest daughter Katrina and father Stephen were happy to take part in the festivities, but left planning to the others. Stephanie is the driveway chalk artist and runs the holiday database, and she sports the happiest grin in every photograph. A budding master baker, her cake decorating skills have improved every day. She’s learned how to make all kinds of foods, and now knows the difference between a pie crust and a tart crust.
While the specific food holidays are a cinch, there were some challenging days, such as Left Handers Day. “How do you do that? It was tough,” Natalie said. But Karin found a recipe for Left Bank Salad, they ate with their left hands out of the left side of their bowls, and they had leftovers for lunch.
Family friend Allison Verich brought the story to the attention of Zebra, and said she’s impressed at how long they’ve been at it (140 days and counting). They haven’t missed a day since March 30. “I just think it’s amazing,” said Allison. “Also super admirable that any family could do something that’s such a unifier. It’s a charming idea, and they’ve done a lovely job in executing the challenge each day.”
There are two audiences for the daily holidays: the driveway crowd and the Facebook crowd. After posting a few challenges on Facebook, Karin felt she was oversharing and assumed people were snoozing her. Her concerns proved unfounded. Friends loved the posts, photos, and holiday descriptions. It was light fun and had nothing to do with COVID or politics. The resounding reaction: “We look forward to it every day.”
Similarly, the local audience missed the driveway notes the few times the family was out of town. And when they were home and drawing the day’s holiday on the driveway, friends and neighbors walking or driving by would stop to see for themselves, often adding their approval and appreciation.
“We started the exercise to have fun and fill our time,” Karin said. “We didn’t realize how much other people would enjoy it. An older man came running up to my husband last week telling him how much he loves seeing each day’s celebration. And we’ve had so much fun together as a family. Maybe this will inspire other families to do something similar. It’s really been great.”
Is there an end in sight? Stephanie added, “We thought we’d go at least till the end of the summer, as we’d need to stop once we went back to school,” said Stephanie. “Now that school will be online, maybe we will keep going. I think one full year would complete a nice circle.”