weird and wacky holidays happening in December

International Sweater Vestival

Today is the International Sweater Vestival, also known as Sweater Vestival or the Festival of Sweater Vests. Always occurring on the first Friday of December—identified by some as the second Friday after Thanksgiving—it celebrates the sartorial splendor inherent in the collective donning of sweater vests.

The first known mention of “Sweater Vestival” occurred in 2008 when Carolyn Johnson interviewed the holiday’s creator for the Boston Globe. Who is this mysterious genius? Is it Johnson herself? Perhaps fearing scandal, Johnson isn’t telling; one might say she’s playing her cards close to the vest. Here is an excerpt from the article.

Q: Why should I wear a vest? Isn’t this a made-up holiday?

A: It certainly is made-up, and that is exactly why you should take part. All holidays are made-up – a collective recognition of some person or historic event or cause. These can range from the sincere to the ironic to the nonsensical. In apparent seriousness, for example, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm established Narcolepsy Awareness Day on March 9. A more arch holiday is 11/11, set aside for the Corduroy Appreciation Club to “hail the wale.” Name your cause and there’s a day: International Talk Like A Pirate Day (Sept. 19), World Wide Knit in Public Day (the second Saturday in June), or National Boss Day (Oct. 16).

The purity of a holiday’s origins tends to get buried in the commercial detritus that blossoms in the middle aisle of local drugstores. So understand that the Sweater Vestival is a nascent holiday – a rare opportunity to get in on the ground level of a holiday, before manufacturers are churning out tiny, edible, foil-wrapped vests.

[Editor’s note: seen on store shelves since 2015]

Sweater Vestival Day

tiny, edible foil-wrapped vests

 

More importantly, it is not a holiday about historical figures or causes or ideals: It is about all the other people who wear the vest.

Q: Can you tell me more about the holiday’s origins?

A: The second Friday after Thanksgiving is a lull in a jam-packed holiday season and a perfect day for people to continue the holiday cheer with something subtle yet uplifting. Unlike other faux holidays – such as Festivus, which first appeared on the sitcom “Seinfeld” as a protest against holiday-season commercialism – Vestival is not a joke at all. It also happens to be funny.

Q: Why is Vestival important?

A: On a superficial level, Sweater Vestival isn’t about something “deep.” In contrast, on a superficial level most other holidays are: Veterans Day is about the serious topic of honoring soldiers who have fought in wars to protect this country. President’s Day salutes our forefathers. Valentine’s Day is about love. But if you look beneath the surface, Valentine’s Day is more about candy and overpriced bouquets. Presidents’ Day has become synonymous with sales at car dealerships, and many people see Veterans Day as just another day off, not an opportunity to consider wars and the weight of history.

Despite its seemingly shallow artifice, though, Vestival carries unusual depth. People wearing vests smile at each other in recognition, discuss the origins of their vests, or give each other compliments. At a time when people can feel more alone than ever, wearing a sweater vest is a reason to connect.

What are you waiting for? Grab those thrift store finds; gifts from Christmas past languishing in the back of your closet; or any sweater you have the urge to liberate of its sleeves. (Common sense advice: obtain permission before wielding the scissors if the aforementioned sweater belongs to someone else.)

Embrace the cold shoulder(s) and have a happy International Sweater Vestival!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

Banished Words List Day 2016

banned words list dayBanished Words List Day 2016

If you’ve read our post about LSSU’s 2015 Banished Words List, you already know you’re in for a treat. Drumroll, please. (We realize that phrase should be banished, too.) The official Banished Words List for 2016 is:

SO

So the word that received the most nominations this year was already banished, but today it is being used differently than it was in 1999, when nominators were saying, “I am SO down with this list!”  Nominations came from across the country.

“So it’s getting really annoying. So can we please put a stop to this?” – David G. Simpson, Laurel, Md.

“It has become widespread to the point of an epidemic,” said a sickened John from Philadelphia, Penn.

CONVERSATION

Online publications invite us to “join the conversation,” which is usually more of a scream-fest.  Gayle from Cedarville, Mich. wonders if “debate has become too harsh for our delicate sensibilities.  Now we are all encouraged to have a ‘conversation,’ and everything will somewhat be magically resolved.”

PROBLEMATIC

“Anything that the speaker finds vaguely inconvenient or undesirable, such as an opposing political belief or bad traffic. Contrast things that are self-evidently taken to be problematic with, say, actual problems like a hole in the ozone layer or a job loss.” – Adam Rosen, Asheville, N.C.

STAKEHOLDER

A word that has expanded from describing someone who may actually have a stake in a situation or problem, now being over-used in business to describe customers and others.

“Often used with ‘engagement.’ If someone is disengaged, they’re not really a stakeholder in the first place. LSSU, please engage your stakeholders by adding this pretentious jargon to your list. – Gwendolyn Barlow, Portland, Ore.

“Dr. Van Helsing should be the only stake holder,” says Jeff Baenen of Minneapolis, Minn.

PRICE POINT

Another example of using two words when one will do.

“This alliterative mutation seems to be replacing the word ‘price’ or ‘cost.’ It may be standard business-speak, but must it contaminate everyday speech?” says Kevin Carney of Chicago, who provided an example in the March 19, 2015 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, pg. 1171, which says, “Although the ‘price point’ of effective new drugs…may initially be out of reach for many patients…”

“It has no ‘point.’  It is just a ‘price.’” – Guy Michael, Cherry Hill, N.J.

SECRET SAUCE

“Usually used in a sentence explaining the ‘secret’ in excruciating public detail. Is this a metaphor for business success based on the fast food industry?” – John Beckett, Ann Arbor, Mich.

“It has become too frequent in business discussions. I am tired of it.” – Bill Evans, Clinton, Miss.

BREAK THE INTERNET

A phrase that is annoying online word-watchers around the world.

“Meaning a post or video or whatever will have so much Internet traffic that it will ‘break the internet.’ It’s being used for every headline and video. Ridiculous.” – Matthew Squires, Auburn, Mich.

“I hope the list doesn’t ‘break the internet.’ (How else would I read it next year)?” – Dean Hinrichs, Kansas City, Mo.

WALK IT BACK

A slower back-pedal?

“It seems as if every politician who makes a statement has to ‘walk it back,’ meaning retract the statement, or explain it in laborious detail to the extent that the statement no longer has any validity or meaning once it has been ‘walked back.’” – Max Hill, Killeen, Tex.

PRESSER

This shortened form of “press release” and “press conference” is not so impressive.

“Not only is there no intelligent connection between the word “presser” and its supposed meaning, this word already has a definition: a person or device that removes wrinkles. Let’s either say ‘press conference’ or ‘press release’ or come up with something more original, intelligent and interesting!” – Constance Kelly, West Bloomfield, Mich.

“This industry buzzword has slipped into usage in news reporting and now that they have started, they can’t seem to stop using it.” – Richard W. Varney, Akron, Ohio.

MANSPREADING

A word that is familiar to those in bigger cities, where seats on the bus or subway are sometimes difficult to find.

“Men don’t need another disgusting-sounding word thrown into the vocabulary to describe something they do…You’re just taking too much room on this train seat, be a little more polite…” – Carrie Hansen, Caledonia, Mich.

“The term itself is stupid, and the campaign and petition written by men’s rights activists claiming that men need to take up more space due to their anatomy, and that anti-manspreading campaigns are ‘male-bashing,’ are ridiculous. The problem is with people taking up too much space on the subway or any public mode of transportation. – Beth, Anchorage, Alaska

VAPE

Vape and vaping are used to describe the act of ‘smoking’ e-cigarettes (another strange word) since the products emit vapor instead of smoke.

David Ervin of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., says he hopes the word “goes up in smoke.”

GIVING ME LIFE

The phrase refers to anything that may excite a person, or something that causes one to laugh.

“I suggest banishing this hyperbole for over-use,” says Ana Robbins, Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.

“This list of banished words is ‘giving me life’!”

PHYSICALITY

We had to include one for the sports fans. John Kollig of Jamestown, N.Y., says this is overused by every sports broadcaster and writer.

“I am not sure who is responsible, but over the last 12-18 months you cannot watch a sporting event, listen to a sports talk show on radio, or anything on ESPN without someone using this term to attempt to describe an athlete or a contest.” – Dan Beitzel, Perrysburg, Ohio

“Every time I hear them say it, I change the channel.” – Brenda Ruffing, Jackson, Mich.

We’re going to resubmit “sunset” for 2017. Stay tuned! (That also needs to be banished.)

Copyright 2016 Worldwide Weird Holidays

December 30 is National Bicarbonate of Soda Day

national bicarbonate of soda dayIt’s National Bicarbonate of Soda Day! Yes, that’s right: baking soda has its own day. As we shall see, this hardworking substance earns at least one holiday’s worth of celebration.

Sodium bicarbonate is a chemical compound with the formula NaHCO3. A component of the mineral natron, it is a white, odorless, water-soluble crystalline solid that is found dissolved in many mineral springs.

Ancient Egyptians used natron as a cleanser. In 1791, French chemist Nicolas Leblanc introduced sodium bicarbonate in its modern form. Fifty-five years later, two New York bakers, John Dwight and Austin Church, began to manufacture and sell the compound we know as baking soda today under the name John Dwight and Co.

In 1867, the company became Church and Co. and debuted its Arm & Hammer packaging, depicting the hammer-wielding arm of Vulcan, Roman god of fire. It was marketed mainly as a leavening agent for use in baking until 1925, when the company published a booklet called A Friend in Need, touting baking soda as a “proven medical agent.”

Modern quack science makes extraordinary claims regarding baking soda. A Google search for “sodium bicarbonate cures cancer” returns 82,600 results; 7 of 10 on its first page advocate the treatment. As a thought experiment, ask this: if one (or many) doses of baking soda can “alkalinize” our blood and that in turn can cure cancer, what would the acid in a glass of orange juice do to our blood? Surely, adding a shot of vodka would be a death sentence, wouldn’t it?

While baking soda cannot differentiate between normal and cancer cells in our bodies, it can treat indigestion and make our laundry smell fresh, relieve insect bites, polish silverware, clean crayon stains from walls, remove grease from pans and oil from garage floors. It also kills ants and roaches, whitens teeth, freshens breath and exfoliates skin.

Here are five more uses:

  1. Keep cut flowers fresh longer by adding a teaspoon of baking soda to the vase.
  2. Make a paste with water or add to bath to relieve the pain of sunburn.
  3. Add a teaspoon to the water when you soak beans to neutralize their gassy effects.
  4. Throw onto small grease or electrical fires to extinguish them. Do not use on fires in deep fryers; the sudden release of carbon dioxide may cause the grease to splatter.
  5. Unclog a drain by pouring in 1/2 to 1 cup of baking soda, and then 1/2 to 1 cup of white vinegar. Let sit for five minutes—covered, if possible. Follow with a gallon of boiling water.

There are hundreds of uses for this amazing product. Discover a few more and have a happy National Bicarbonate of Soda Day!

Copyright 2016 Worldwide Weird Holidays

December 29 is National Pepper Pot Day

Today is National Pepper Pot Day. Pepper pot soup has been called the soup that won the Revolutionary War. By the time American troops reached Valley Forge on December 19, 1777, in the midst of a harsh winter, soldiers and the many wives, mothers and children who accompanied them were running desperately low on provisions. Local farmers refused the weak continental currency carried by General George Washington’s troops, instead selling their crops to the British.

On December 23, Washington wrote to the Continental Congress, “…I am now convinced, beyond a doubt that unless some great and capital change suddenly takes place in that line, this Army must inevitably be reduced to one or other of these three things. Starve, dissolve, or disperse, in order to obtain subsistence in the best manner they can; rest assured Sir this is not an exaggerated picture, but that I have abundant reason to support what I say.”

According to legend, on December 29, Washington instructed chief cook Christopher Ludwick to make a soup “that will warm and strengthen the body of a soldier and inspire his flagging spirit.” Only scraps re­mained in the kit­chen ex­cept for beef tripe donated by a nearby butcher, and pep­per­corns, a gift from a Ger­man­town pat­ri­ot. Ludwick combined them and named the soup Philadelphia Pepper Pot, a re­mind­er of Amer­ica’s claim to the Brit­ish-held city.

national pepper pot day

Because Ludwick hailed from Philadelphia, which was then a center of the slave trade, it’s thought that his pepper pot soup was an Americanized version of Jamaican callaloo. If you’d like to make it yourself, try this version from Northeast Times which states, “Al­though this re­cipe may not be identic­al to the Val­ley Forge ori­gin­al, you know it’s bound to be of­fal good. Still, some people just don’t have the stom­ach for it.” (There’s nothing like a good tripe-based pun!)

Philadelphia Pepper Pot Soup

2 me­di­um onions, diced
1 small green pep­per, diced
3 stalks cel­ery, diced
1 lb. tripe, cut in­to small, bite-sized pieces
4 Tb­sp. but­ter
3 qts. wa­ter
1 beef mar­row bone or 1 veal knuckle bone
1 tsp. ground pep­per
1/2 tsp. cay­enne pep­per
2 tsp. salt
2 bay leaves
2 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried mar­joram
2 me­di­um car­rots, diced
2 me­di­um pota­toes, diced
1 can to­ma­toes, (16 oz.)
1/4 cup pars­ley, chopped
1 tsp. dried mar­joram

Tripe Pre­par­a­tion:

– Blanch tripe be­fore adding to soup.
– Wash tripe well.
– Put tripe in a pot, cov­er with wa­ter and add 1 tsp. salt.
– Bring to a boil and al­low to cook for three minutes.
– Pour off wa­ter and cov­er tripe with cold wa­ter.
– Drain again.
– Cut tripe in­to small, bite-sized pieces with kit­chen shears.

Soup:

– In a soup pot, saute onions, green pep­per, cel­ery and tripe in but­ter for about 10 minutes.
– Add wa­ter, bone, pep­pers, salt, bay leaves, thyme and mar­joram.
– Cov­er and al­low soup to sim­mer for 45 minutes.
– Add car­rots, pota­toes, to­ma­toes and pars­ley.
– Con­tin­ue to sim­mer for 30 minutes.
– Re­move bay leaves.

Be­fore serving, you can add the fol­low­ing spaet­zle to the soup, if de­sired.

Spaet­zle:

1/2 cup flour
1/8 tsp. salt
1 egg
1 Tb­sp. milk

– Mix to­geth­er flour and salt, and make a well in cen­ter of flour.
– Put egg and milk in­to well and beat them slightly with a fork.
– Mix egg mix­ture and flour in­to a sticky dough.
– Drop about 1/3 tsp. of the bat­ter at a time in­to the sim­mer­ing soup.
– Al­low to sim­mer a few minutes un­til done.

Feeling a little less adventurous? Substitute chicken for the tripe. Feed your inner patriot on National Pepper Pot Day.

Copyright 2016 Worldwide Weird Holidays