A Brief History of 'National Boss Day,' Which Somehow Really Exists 

In Depth

Today is “National Boss Day,” the most ridiculous fake holiday that exists.

What, you may ask, is National Boss Day? Please allow Hallmark to explain and offer some ideas to mark the occasion, via their online store:

Generally observed on or around October 16, National Boss Day began in 1958, but Hallmark didn’t begin selling Boss’s Day cards until 1979. Now Hallmark offers a full line of Boss’s Day cards, from funny Boss Day cards to more sincere, heartfelt expressions of appreciation for your supervisor. You’ll find National Boss Day cards that are appropriate from an entire workgroup, as well as those an individual can give to his or her manager.
Having a great boss is a treat. If you’re looking for a little extra something to treat your manager, consider a team lunch or a small token gift of appreciation. Hallmark has fun Boss’s Day gift ideas for her and for him, ranging from Boss Lady coffee mugs to funny desktop signs. The World’s Best Boss likes to hear they’re doing a good job, too. Drop your Boss Day gift in a patterned gift bag with tissue for a gift presentation that exceeds expectations.

It would appear that this totally fictional holiday—(Isn’t every day Boss’s Day? In what universe is it acceptable to pressure people to give their managers gifts?)—was invented by a woman named Patricia Haroski.

In 1958, a columnist at the Chicago Tribune wrote up her brainstorm: “Pat, liking her job, and her employers, has been mulling over the fact that there is no national boss day,” the piece read. “To verify this oversight she wrote to the United States Chamber of Commerce and received a corroborating letter which prompted her to register Oct. 16 as National Boss Day.” Why?

Her suggestion is not merely to present a boutionniere by way of recognizing the importance of the boss, but to devote a bit of serious thought—on Oct. 16—to understanding the boss. [We expect him to understand us!]
Especially, she believes, we should try to comprehend the demands on an employer and the responsibilities he carries for the business as a whole.
Such a point of view is conducive to the kind of cooperation which means so much to her in the Deerfield office of State Farm Insurance companies where she works.

You can watch the holiday build steam by scanning results from the archives over time. Often it pops up with specific reference to secretaries: a 1960 piece from the Kingston, New York paper noted that “Area secretaries’ attention is also called” to the upcoming holiday; in 1972, the Associated Press reported that the National Secretaries Association had decided to officially recognize the holiday. You can see the idea seeping out from the specific secretary/boss relationship, though. A 1963 syndicated column from the AP made the case, in a somewhat joking tone, noting the existence of Labor Day.

It’s common to blame all nonsense holidays on greeting card companies, but it becomes a common feature of classifieds before Hallmark ever began cashing in with their first offerings for the occasion, in 1979. In fact, the owner of a greeting card store complained to the Indianapolis News in 1975 they got numerous requests for cards to mark the day, “but there just isn’t such a thing.” By the early 1980s, though, companies were marketing special flower arrangements. You might notice that this all coincides nicely with the tide beginning to turn against America’s organized labor movement.

And now “National Boss Day” is firmly entrenched in the fake holiday pantheon; Hallmark jacked production up dramatically in 2007, according to a 2008 article in the Reading Eagle, though it’s the funny cards that are the popular ones. What does one write in a card for “National Boss Day,” you ask? Well, Hallmark has some suggestions, from the formal (“Once a year isn’t enough to express how much our team appreciates you every day”) to the friendly (“Being our boss can’t be easy, but you make it look that way”). The company has an entire category on their website dedicated to the day with over a hundred products listed; the angel holding up a sign saying “thank you” is particularly special. If you want to buy a card in person, I personally have seen National Boss’s Day cards for sale at a Publix, which is not unionized, in Georgia, a “right to work” state.

But there’s almost something archaic about the day in the era of the gig economy. To whom do you send a card when your manager is an app?

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