Did you know that there’s a retail holiday
bigger than Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined?
Hi, I’m Erin McCarthy, editor-in-chief of mentalfloss.com. Singles’ Day is celebrated
in China on November 11th, and it’s a behemoth of a day for online sales. The story goes
that the holiday originally started at Nanjing University in China as a way for students
to celebrate being single — 11/11 represents four individuals. It became a cultural phenomenon,
and retailers couldn’t resist getting a piece of the pie, encouraging people to treat
themselves to celebrate singledom. Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba pushes sales the
hardest, and they’re definitely getting results — in 2019, the company sold over
$38 billion worth of goods in 24 hours. For comparison, Cyber Monday sees about $9.4 billion
in sales. And that’s just the first of 18 bizarre
holidays you’re going to want to put on your calendar for 2020. National Catfish Day sounds like one of those random holidays that are invented by PR firms
and calendar makers — you know, like Chocolate Chip Cookie Day, National Lasagna Day, or
National Chocolate Parfait Day. (All of which I celebrate, by the way.) The difference is,
National Catfish Day is a real national observance in the U.S., as declared by President Ronald
Reagan in 1987. But it’s not to celebrate just any catfish. In his proclamation, Reagan
said, “Farm-raised catfish have come a long way from their bottom-feeding ancestors.”
National Sleepyhead Day in Finland is more fun for some than others. As tradition goes,
on July 27th, the last person in the house still sleeping gets woken up with a bucket
of water to the face. The city of Naantali goes even further, recruiting a “celebrity
Sleepyhead” to throw into the sea. Do you love Tom Hanks? Of course you do. So
you’ll definitely want to celebrate International Tom Hanks Day on the Saturday that falls closest
to April 1st. When a few students at Western Michigan University created this day in the
early 2000s, they were really just looking for a reason to spend the day watching some
sweet Tom Hanks movies while drinking rum and Dr. Pepper (that’s a Forrest Gump reference).
The day really took off when Hanks himself caught word of it and sent the students some
memorabilia. The students promptly auctioned it off to benefit one of Hanks’ favorite
charities, and now thousands of dollars in donations roll in every year, both online
and at Tom Hanks Day parties from Los Angeles to London. My personal favorite Tom Hanks
movie is the Green Mile. Leave yours in the comments.
November 23rd is St. Clement’s Day, but not many people celebrate it like they used
to. Pope Clement the First is the patron saint of metalworkers and blacksmiths, so to kick
off “Old Clem’s Night,” revelers of old would “fire the anvil” — meaning
they would pack gunpowder into a hole in an anvil, then strike it with a hammer to create
an explosion and send the whole thing flying into the air. Sounds super safe.
Before the Macy’s Parade took New York City by storm, Ragamuffin Day was all the rage.
Celebrated on Thanksgiving, the day was marked by children dressing up in rags and wandering
through the street to ask adults, “Anything for Thanksgiving?” The reward was typically
candy, apples, and pennies. The holiday died out for a couple of reasons, from the popularity
of the Macy’s Parade to society frowning on the practice.
Von Steuben day commemorates Baron Friedrich Von Steuben, a Prussian military leader who
helped George Washington turn his rag-tag volunteer army in need of a shower (name that
musical) into disciplined soldiers. Some cities still commemorate his contributions in mid-September,
with Oktoberfest-style beer tents and parades. Fun fact: the parade in Ferris Bueller’s
Day Off was actually Chicago’s Von Steuben Day parade.
Here’s another American History throwback: a holiday called The Eighth, occurring, appropriately
enough, on January 8th. It was a holiday commemorating the American victory against the British in
the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812. According to some historians, up until
the Civil War The Eighth was celebrated with almost as much enthusiasm as the Fourth of
July. Carving pumpkins? Child’s play. Carving
radishes? Now that takes talent. On December 23rd, residents of Oaxaca, Mexico, celebrate
Noche de Rabanos, or Night of the Radishes. People there have been sculpting oversized
radishes since the 1800s, when merchants created the carvings to attract shoppers to their
market stalls. Today, more than 100 people contribute intricate radish art to the festivities
every year. Sometimes you need to celebrate the little
things, which is exactly what Bonza Bottler Day does. It occurs monthly, when the number
of the month matches the number of the day: January 1, February 2, March 3, and so on.
Bodacious Bonza Bottler Day happens when the year also matches — December 12, 2012, for
example. The idea was hatched by Elaine Fremont in 1985, and named by an Australian student:
“Bonza” is Australian slang for super, while “Bottler” is slang for “something
excellent.” Devil’s Spit Day, also known as Michaelmas,
is said to be the day when the Archangel Michael defeated the angel Lucifer. According to one
tradition, the fallen angel (literally) plummeted from heaven and hit the floor of Hell, landing
in a patch of thorny blackberry bushes. Injured and angry, he spat on the berries and cursed
the fruit. There’s also a version that says he peed on the bushes, so choose your own
adventure. Either way, now you know why blackberries are out of season in the fall.
As far as holidays go, Galactic Tick Day is a relatively new addition… even though the
reason for it is as old as the universe. You probably know that the earth revolves around
the sun in about 365 days (although a rather depressing 2014 study found that about ¼
of Americans thought it went the other way around, with the sun orbiting the Earth).
What you might not realize is that the solar system itself—including the sun—revolves
around the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. In 2016, a group of scientists decided that
this was a trip worth celebrating, too. Unfortunately, this solar system-wide revolution takes about
225 million years to complete, which would severely limit the festivities. So they decided
to celebrate the Galactic Tick instead, a period of time equal to roughly eight ten
millionths of a percent of those 225 million years, or one centi-arc second.
Of course, you and I know what a centi-arc second is, but for those who might be confused:
The sun travels around the center of the galaxy in an approximate circle, which is 360 degrees.
Each degree can be divided up into 60 equal pieces, called arc minutes. Each arc minute
can, in turn, be divided into 60 arc seconds. Because of the massive time scale involved
in the solar system’s loop, even an arc second takes over 170 years to complete. So
the creators of Galactic Tick Day took it a step further and divided each arc second
by 100—a centi-arc second, which they call a “tick,” like the ticking hand of a clock.
This “tick” takes roughly 633.7 days to happen. The holiday’s founders chose to
retroactively “start” the clock on October 2nd, 1608, the day when Hans Lippershey filed
the patent for his telescope. All of that means the next galactic tick day is March
21, 2020. You’ve heard of Christmas in July traditions
before, no doubt, but Christmas in August at Yellowstone National Park is a little different.
Back around the 1930s, employees at Yellowstone held Christmas festivities in the summer.
There are different explanations offered for this tradition, but it probably had something
to do with the fact that many of the workers were seasonal employees hired for peak tourism,
and wouldn’t be around come December. The park has carried on the tradition over the
decades, with employees and guests alike trimming trees, caroling and visiting with St. Nick
himself — all on August 25. White Day on March 14 is celebrated by in
Japan, and has spread to other East Asian countries. But to fully understand this holiday,
we have to back up a month, to Valentine’s Day, when it’s traditional for East Asian
women to give men chocolates Significant others receive expensive chocolates, and coworkers,
bosses, and relatives get cheaper treats. Sadly, it was a one-way street: Women didn’t
receive anything in return… Until 1978, when a Japanese confectionery reasoned, rightly
so, that women deserved gifts too. The holiday was originally deemed “Marshmallow Day,”
with men encouraged to gift the fluffy stuff. Eventually it was expanded to refer to any
white gift, even those that simply came with white packaging. It’s no Valentine’s Day
in terms of sales, but White Day still rakes in around $500 million for retailers every
year. World Emoji Day on July 17 has only been around
since 2014, but it’s enough of a thing that the Empire State Building was lit up emoji-yellow
to celebrate the day in 2017. Other Emoji Day celebrations have included Apple announcing
new additions to their already-robust emoji lineup, and folks around the world attempting
to set the World Record for most people dressed as emojis. As for personal celebrations,
could you communicate exclusively in emoji on July 17? Yes. Should you?
Bean Throwing Day, more properly known as Setsubun, is observed on February 3rd in Japan.
It’s part of ushering in spring and getting rid of bad spirits — and to do so, revelers
pelt a senior member of their family with roasted soybeans. Really! A senior male
member of the family will sometimes dress up as a demon to make the meaning behind the
ritual more tangible. The beans are said to bring good luck and drive out evil. Plus,
have you ever tried throwing beans at someone? It’s a blast. On a larger scale, Setsubun
has become a very commercial affair, including sponsored, televised events complete with
appearances by celebrity sumo wrestlers. If you visit Lopburi, Thailand, on the last
Sunday in November, prepare to do a lot of monkeying around: That’s when Lopburi celebrates
the Monkey Buffet to honor the thousands of macaques that live in the area and are thought
to bring good luck.Locals prepare artful pyramids of watermelon, durian, pineapple and more
for the monkeys to enjoy—up to two tons’ worth! Fun fact: according to a 2007 report
in the American Journal of Primatology, “Long-tailed macaques in Lopburi, Thailand, use human hair
as if it were dental floss.” And finally, the German version of Father’s
Day, Vatertag or Männertag (Man’s Day), isn’t odd in theory — after all, dads
deserve their due. But instead of going out to eat at a terrible chain restaurant and
giving their dads something that will disappear into the closet for all eternity, Germans
celebrate by giving them a day out. Männertag could include a pub tour, a group bike ride
accompanied by a beer wagon, or a raucous day in a beer hall. All way better than another
tie, for sure. Our next episode is about weird old clubs and organizations. If you know of an obscure
group, league, or association, leave it in the comments for your chance to be featured
in that video! It’ll be up on January 15th- be sure to subscribe here so you don’t miss
it. We’ll see you then!