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November 17 is National Unfriend Day

On November 17, 2010, comedian and late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel inaugurated National Unfriend Day with an advisory about fairweather Facebook friends.

Test them by asking for help with a move, he said. The people who respond are your friends. No one else. He capped off the proceedings with a public service announcement by William Shatner.

According to data from a 2014 Edison Research report, 58% of Americans are on Facebook and have an average of 350 Facebook friends. A holiday begun as a lark has never been more relevant.

In 2016, Kimmel asked his audience to post on his Facebook page who they had unfriended and why:

Happy National Unfriend Day!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

November 16 is National Button Day

National Button DayNational Button Day

Today is National Button Day. How did it get its start and why should we celebrate it? We use this humble fastener every day but how much do we really know about it?

National Button Day may never have existed were it not for Otto Lightner, publisher of Hobbies magazine, who democratized collecting during the Great Depression when he said, “Even with no money, everyone could collect something.” He became fascinated by other people’s collections, amassing them and buying real estate for the sole purpose of housing them. (The Lightner Museum in St. Augustine, Florida, exhibits a few.)

Lightner organized a hobby show in 1938 at the Hotel Sherman in Chicago. Button collectors contributed to the show and founded the National Button Society (NBS) later that year. On November 16, 1939, NBS hosted its own event in Chicago to recognize button collecting as an organized hobby that anyone, rich or poor, could enjoy and declared it National Button Day.

Today, NBS  has more than 3,000 members on four continents, with 39 of the 50 states represented by state and local button clubs. Per its website:

Membership in the National Button Society is open to individuals and organizations who collect buttons and who wish to support the objectives of the NBS. Principal among those objectives are the promotion of educational research and exhibitions, the publishing and dissemination of information about buttons, and the preservation of the aesthetic and historical significance of buttons for future generations.

NBS holds a weeklong convention every August. In 2016, “Mining in Button Mountains” paid homage to its host city of Denver, Colorado.  Organizers chose “The Magic of Buttons” as the theme for the 2017 celebration in Appleton, Wisconsin. Each year, collectors meet to share finds, stories, craft ideas and fellowship.

national button dayNational Button Day

Do you have what it takes to join? The answer is yes. Every one of us can enjoy collecting buttons. Look around your home. Maybe you still have buttons that belonged to your grandmother. Have you ever noticed that while buttons may not be appreciated, they are rarely thrown out? You probably have a container sitting around right now.

A Brief History of the Button

The earliest known button was found in what is now Pakistan; it is made of a curved shell and is about 5000 years old. In ancient Rome, buttons were ornamental and rarely appeared in straight rows. Beginning in the Middle Ages, buttons became status symbols made of precious metals and stones. The number of buttons one wore communicated wealth.

The first guild of button-makers was formed in France in 1250. The buttonhole appeared around the same time but didn’t catch on right away. Most buttons remained strictly decorative, applied atop a garment while functional underpinnings such as the hook-and-eye and laces did the actual work of holding clothes together.

Even after the buttonhole helped forever change fashion design, many buttons were nonfunctional. There is a rumor about the origin of the seemingly useless line of buttons along the sleeves of coats and jackets, especially military uniforms.

According to legend, one of three leaders–Catherine the Great, King Frederick I of Prussia or Admiral Lord Nelson–inspected the troops (in Nelson’s case, the sailors) and ordered that buttons be sewn onto uniforms to discourage the young men from wiping their noses on their sleeves. Pockets weren’t yet features of most uniforms, so carrying a handkerchief was not a viable alternative. We’re loath to picture the scene of soldiers going off to battle with mucus streaming down their faces.

Over the years, buttons became increasingly ornate. Among the more extreme were “habitat” buttons, made to hold keepsakes like dried flowers, hair clippings or tiny insects under glass. Hollowed-out buttons allowed thieves to secretly transport jewels and other contraband. (This practice was revived unsuccessfully by a heroin-smuggling ring in 2009.)

Button orientation was formalized during the Victorian Era. Then as now, men tended to dress themselves so buttons faced right for their convenience.  Women wore their buttons on the left to make it easier for their maids to adjust while facing them.  (The presumption was that most people were right-handed.)

The servants are gone, but the convention remains. Right-handed women and left-handed men successfully button their clothes every day without giving a thought to the discrimination that decided their sartorial fate.

Go Forth and Button!

Now that you know more, it’s time to go round up some buttons. Check out these craft ideas for inspiration and have a happy and fun National Button Day!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

November 14 is National American Teddy Bear Day

Today is National American Teddy Bear Day, whereas September 9th is National Teddy Bear Day. Why? We think it’s because one holiday isn’t enough to contain the cuddly stuffed animal’s cuteness.

Here’s what we do know: teddy bears got their name from Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States.  The date coincides with a hunting trip in November 1902.

The governor of Mississippi invited President Roosevelt to a bear hunt, but after three days, Roosevelt hadn’t spotted one. To keep the president’s trip from ending in failure, the guides set the dogs loose; they tracked down an old black bear and attacked it.

The guides brought the wounded bear back to camp and tied it to a tree for the president. When Roosevelt saw the old bear he refused to shoot it because to do so would be unsportsmanlike. However, since it was injured, Roosevelt directed the men to put the bear down to end its suffering.

Word traveled quickly across the country. The Washington Post ran this headline on November 15, 1902:

PRESIDENT CALLED AFTER THE BEAST HAD BEEN LASSOED,
BUT HE REFUSED TO MAKE AN UNSPORTSMANLIKE SHOT

Political cartoonist Clifford Berryman drew a single panel that appeared in the Post the next day. In it, the president stands in the foreground, a guide and bear behind him. Berryman depicted the bear as a cub trembling with fear. He began to include the cub in other drawings of Roosevelt, forever linking him to bears.

national american teddy bear day

Morris Michtom, a Brooklyn candy shop owner,  saw Berryman’s cartoons and was inspired to make a stuffed bear. Michtom wrote to Roosevelt and asked his permission to call the toy “Teddy’s Bear.” Although the president agreed to lend his name to the new invention, he is said to have doubted it would ever amount to much in the toy business.

The runaway popularity of the cuddly bears led Michtom to mass-produce them, forming the Ideal Novelty and Toy Company in 1903. It soon became a multimillion-dollar business.  By 1908, the toy had become so popular that a preacher in Michigan warned that replacing dolls with toy bears would destroy the maternal instincts of little girls. If that were true, there would be no one left to read (or write) this.

A Teddy’s Bear made in 1903 is owned by The National Museum of American History. It’s in perfect condition.

national american teddy bear day

Happy National American Teddy Bear Day!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

November 13 is Sadie Hawkins Day

Sadie Hawkins DayToday is Sadie Hawkins Day, an American rite-of-passage for generations of teenagers. Misogynistic, antiquated and awkward for all involved, the Sadie Hawkins Dance supposedly empowers girls to switch gender roles and ask out the boys. Did we mention it’s misogynistic and antiquated? The true origin is much, much worse.

Sadie Hawkins was a character created in 1937 by Al Capp in a cartoon called Li’l Abner, set in the fictional hillbilly town of Dogpatch, Kentucky. Sadie was the “homeliest gal in all them hills.” She waited in vain for a suitor to show up at her door, but not a single prospective husband came a-courting. After fifteen years, Sadie was in full panic mode and her father didn’t want to support a spinster daughter for the rest of her life.

After fifteen long years, Sadie’s dad decided to get creative. He called all the unmarried men of Dogpatch together and declared it Sadie Hawkins Day. The town’s bachelors would run for their lives with Sadie in hot pursuit. The “lucky” man she caught would have to marry her. As her Pappy explained, “Th’ one she ketches’ll be her husbin.”

Sadie_Hawkins_Day origin lil abner comic strip

The rest of the spinsters in Dogpatch (how many were there?) thought the race was an excellent idea and made Sadie Hawkins Day a mandatory yearly event, much to the chagrin of the bachelors in town, who had no say in the matter.

The Sadie Hawkins Dance appeared in the strip sometime later, taking place the night before the race. The spinsters wore hobnail boots to stomp on the feet of the single men, potentially making them easier to catch in the next day’s race.

The Li’l Abner comic strip debuted in 1934. From the start, it was bawdy and filled with sexual innuendo, not to mention scantily-clad, pneumatically-chested women. But it was apparently considered wholesome family fare. In 1939, Life magazine ran a story stating that 201 colleges were celebrating Sadie Hawkins Day.  By 1952, it was reportedly celebrated at over 40,000 different locations. Capp wrote of the phenomenon:

It’s become my responsibility [to include Sadie Hawkins Day every year in the strip.] It doesn’t happen on any set day in November; it happens on the day I say it happens. I get tens of thousands of letters from colleges, communities, and church groups, starting around July, asking me what day, so they can make plans.

Eventually, it evolved into an all-day event that occurs during the second week of November.

sadie hawkins day life magazine

Li’l Abner was an enormous success for its creator, who grew rich from merchandising and movie deals, product tie-ins and a short-lived TV puppet show. In the 1960s, he underwent an ideological transformation from New Deal Democrat to hippie-hater and close friend of Richard Nixon. He became a highly paid speaker on the college campus lecture circuit. His routine was to insult and provoke his audience into a shouting match.

sadie hawkins day al cappCapp attempted to use his fame to “seduce” young women. The biography Al Capp: A Life to the Contrary characterized him as something of a failed serial rapist since the few women who reported him to the authorities always got away. (Capp had lost one of his legs as a boy and routinely removed his prosthetic leg along with his pants.) One would-be victim described tipping him over like a floor lamp, as he crashed into the hotel furniture.

Of course, grotesque slapstick aside, there was nothing funny about his sexual assaults on young women. In 1971, Capp succeeded in physically forcing a 20-year-old Wisconsin college student to perform oral sex on him. To her credit, and against overwhelming pressure, the student pressed charges.

Capp was not charged with rape, but with three lesser counts: indecent exposure, sodomy and “attempted adultery.” He was only found guilty of the latter. Although his career and reputation never recovered, he continued to publish the Li’l Abner comic strip until 1977. He died two years later.

Sadie Hawkins Day is not what it seems. She wasn’t a real person. It has nothing to do with women’s emancipation. Who uses the word spinster? What do you think? Does it matter what its origin is if no one realizes it–or cares, for that matter? Should it continue to be celebrated or be retired?

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays