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Thursday, January 06, 2005 - Page updated at 12:31 A.M.

Hey, Smiths: Your day has come

Sherry Grindeland / Times staff columnist

Geoff Smith of Redmond didn't know he was being honored today.

"But I'm going to come up with a brilliant way to celebrate," he said when I told him that Jan. 6 is National Smith Day. It is officially listed in Chase's Calendar of Events, a book published annually that tracks about 12,000 such holidays, large and small.

Smith Day commemorates the Jan. 6, 1580, birthday of Captain John Smith, the English colonial leader who helped to settle Jamestown, Va., in 1607. Depending upon which history source you consult, Jan. 6 may also be the birthday of mountain man and explorer Jedediah Smith, who blazed trails across the West.

By sheer numbers, folks named Smith deserve their own day. According to the 1990 U.S. Census, more than 1 percent of the population shared the last name. On the Eastside alone, there are more than 1,000 Smiths listed in the telephone directory.

Of those, Geoff Smith wasn't the only one unaware of National Smith Day.

DeAnn Smith of Bellevue laughed when told her day was coming. Before they were married 24 years ago, her husband, Steven, used bizarre or silly names for restaurant reservations. Now they use Smith for reservations, basically, she said, because they have teenagers and don't have time to think of bizarre names.

"My maiden name was Jeans and I never had any trouble with it," DeAnn Smith said. "But after we were married, the first time I gave my name as Smith, someone asked me how to spell it."

The only disadvantage she sees in the name is they sometimes get telephone calls from bill collectors trying to trace other Smiths.

Janice Smith of Issaquah said she had no idea there was a Smith Day. Being a Smith hasn't been difficult, she said.

"My husband's first name, Preston, sounds like a last name and people often hyphenate it Preston-Smith," she said.

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Preston and Janice Smith won't celebrate their Smithness. They're already invited to another celebration today: an Epiphany or 12th Day party. That refers to the final day of Christmas, a traditional English and European celebration also held today.

If your name isn't Smith but you want an official day honoring your family or some other tradition, you can fill out a form in Chase's and request that your day be included in future editions. The scale of the celebration is up to you. If you're ambitious, try convincing Congress that it should be a national holiday.

And if your name is any derivative of Smith, such as Blacksmith, Goldsmith, or even Smyth, you're allowed to call this your day, too.

"My family was originally a Smyth," said Geoff Smith. "I've traced my family back to 1515 and the south of England.

"It's my first name that I've had the most trouble with over the years. When I was a kid, teachers couldn't pronounce Geoffrey."

The retired television reporter, who spends six months a year skiing and the other six golfing, said he uses a pseudonym for restaurant reservations and for ordering takeout food.

"I go by Max," Smith said. "It's easy to hear, simple and definitive. That's the name the guy at my local grocery store, where I order sandwiches to go, knows me by."

If you think a Smith Day is silly, just wait. Other fun days are just around the corner: Penguin Awareness Day is Jan. 15. Appreciate a Dragon Day is Jan. 16.

Between you and me, I'm avoiding National Clean Off Your Desk and National Organize Your Home Day, this Monday. I'll be too busy appreciating the whole month of January.

It comes with heady aroma and good flavor, also known as Coffee Gourmet International Month.

Sherry Grindeland: 206-515-5633 or sgrindeland@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

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