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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

Giving Tuesday

Giving Tuesday was created in 2012 by the U.N. Foundation in partnership with 92Y, and is always observed on the first Tuesday of December. Following on the heels of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, symbols of excessive retail spending, Giving Tuesday encourages us to show generosity to those in need.

giving tuesday

The campaign’s creators hoped that 50 nonprofit organizations would respond by using the hashtag #GivingTuesday in their online appeals. According to Asha Curran, director of the 92Y’s Center for Innovation and Social Impact and a founding member of #GivingTuesday, “We were asking a question: Is there an appetite for something like #BlackFriday and #CyberMonday, but about giving?”

The answer was a resounding yes. Over 2,500 nonprofits took part that first year. By 2014, the number of participants had expanded to include nearly 35,000 charities, civic groups, celebrities, and for-profit companies in 68 countries. In 2016, more than 6,700 nonprofit organizations participated in Giving Tuesday. The average online donation was $128, totaling $47.7 million, according to the Blackbaud Institute’s annual Charitable Giving Report.

Curran describes the event as a movement which includes many actions beyond donating money. In Watertown, NY, for example, residents have been encouraged to donate hours to help neighbors without vehicles get to medical appointments, grocery stores and other critical locations.

Kathy Calvin, CEO of the U.N. Foundation and #GivingTuesday co-founder, attributes the event’s success to its function as a collaboration between nonprofit organizations. “It’s controlled by nobody, owned by everybody,” she says. “We’re working together to raise awareness. This includes logos, sample press releases, social media toolkits. Anything we could think of.”

Critics say the day encourages charities to send emails with the sole purpose of making a cash grab in December when 30 percent of all charitable giving would occur anyway due to the holiday season and end-of-year tax incentives, according to Network for Good’s Digital Giving Index.

Proponents point out that people who donate their time, services or money today are likely to remain involved throughout the year. Everyone is encouraged to give to groups that have impacted their lives and to share their experiences and inspirations at #MyGivingStory.

During the hectic holiday season, it’s easy to forget the value of how we spend our time, money and effort. Giving Tuesday reminds us that we can choose to spend today giving back or paying forward while saving others (and ourselves) in the process.  That’s a bargain too good to pass up.

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

November 22 is Start Your Own Country Day

Today is Start Your Own Country Day. According to legend, it was introduced at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City with the intention of honoring “those free-spirited souls who dared to hope and believe in a better world where they too could declare any land their own.”

start your own country

We’ve been unable to confirm that account. No matter its origin, Start Your Own Country Day promotes awareness that, within certain parameters, it is possible to form a micronation.

That might sound appealing to anyone who is unhappy about the outcome of a recent election but doesn’t want to move to Canada because it’s too cold up there and packing is a miserable task.

But there is more involved than not paying taxes and designing a fun yet meaningful flag. The new nation must provide and maintain roads, power, emergency services, sewage treatment and waterworks as well as telecommunications infrastructure and Internet service.

The 1933 Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States declared that a nation requires four things to exist: a permanent population, defined territory, government and a capacity to enter into relations with other states.

Let’s take a look at two people who’ve pursued their dreams of telling the whole world, “You’re not the boss of me!”

The Republic of Kugelmugel

start your own country day

Lack of building permits for construction of a spherical house turned Edwin Lipburger from an artist to dissident and president of his one-man nation, bordered on all sides by Vienna, Austria, but independent of it. The house itself contained the country of Kugelmugel and its sole inhabitant.

Lipburger was eventually convicted and sentenced to prison for refusing to pay taxes and, among other things, printing his own stamps. Public sympathy for the artist persuaded the Austrian president to pardon him and halt demolition of his house.

Lipburger now lives in exile in Vienna, while his structure has been relocated to the nearby Wiener Prater amusement park, where it has become a tourist attraction. Though barbed wire surrounds the Republic of Kugelmugel, it is still possible to get a glimpse of the spherical nation by looking through the fence.

The Principality of Hutt River

start your own country

Prince Leonard seceded from Australia on April 21st, 1970, founding the Principality of Hutt River as part of an agricultural protest. The sovereign state claims to pay no taxes but donates an equivalent sum to the Australian government each year, which apparently doesn’t care what Leonard writes in the memo line as long as it gets the check.

Like the Republic of Kugelmugel, the Principality of Hutt River issues its own stamps. It also mints coins, prints banknotes and sells commemorative teaspoons, cufflinks, postcards, magnets, tie clips, letter openers and other items online and on location.

What this nation has going for it is its size. Situated 595 kilometers north of Perth, it covers about 75 square kilometers for a total of 18,500 acres of land, roughly the size of Hong Kong. Even if the UN doesn’t recognize the country’s presence, Google does. The Principality of Hutt River is one of the few micronations that shows up on Google Maps.

Visitors pay a small fee and have their passports stamped upon arrival, but there’s no departure tax. Prince Leonard says he hosts thousands of tourists each year. Hutt River’s campground accommodations have been described as “rustic.” TripAdvisor rated it “#737 of 1,035 things to do in Western Australia.”

If you’d like to take a tour of these countries, check out Micronations: the Lonely Planet Guide to Home-Made Nations, the only travel guide of its kind. It was published in 2006, so it pays to call ahead for current travel information if you’re planning a visit to, say, Molossia, which has been at war with East Germany since 1983 and pegs its currency to the value of Pillsbury cookie dough.

If you’re feeling inspired, check out this handy online guide to starting a micronation, complete with Model Constitutional Code. Whether you choose to celebrate today by creating a new country, traveling to one or just relaxing at home, have a happy Start Your Own Country Day!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

November 21 is World Hello Day

world hello day

November 21st is World Hello Day, also known as Greet Ten People for Peace. It was founded in 1973 by brothers Brian and Michael McCormack, university students at the time,  in response to the Yom Kippur War.

“We wanted to do something to celebrate the importance of personal communication to preserving peace,” Michael McCormack later explained. They wrote to world leaders, asking them to support the new holiday. To date, they have received 83 letters of support from world leaders, Nobel Prize winners, authors and entertainers. Citizens in 180 countries have taken part in World Hello Day.

world hello day

Anyone can participate in World Hello Day. The McCormack brothers’ goal was that everyone say hello to ten strangers to encourage dialogue, understanding and friendship between people of diverse backgrounds.

world hello day

Around the globe, people use World Hello Day as an opportunity to express their desire for unity and peace.  With a simple greeting, they send a message to leaders, encouraging them to use diplomacy rather than force to settle conflicts. The occasion helps each person realize he or she is an instrument of change and can contribute to creating a more inclusive society.

Each time you say hello to a stranger, your heart acknowledges over and over again that we are all family. — Suzy Kassem

Happy World Hello Day! Get out there and say hi to some friends you haven’t met yet.

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays