fun, strange holidays grouped by month

January 11 is Cigarettes are Hazardous to Your Health Day

Today is Cigarettes are Hazardous to Your Health Day. Today, this may elicit a resounding,” Duh!” But on January 11, 1964, when Surgeon General Luther L. Terry, M.D. released his report linking smoking to cancer, it was far from accepted wisdom and vehemently disputed by tobacco companies.

The report came after a year-long, comprehensive review by a committee of experts of 7,000 scientific articles about the effects of smoking. Terry chose to release it on a Saturday to minimize any effect on the stock market and maximize coverage in the Sunday papers.

Twenty years later, Terry recalled that the report “hit the country like a bombshell. It was front page news and a lead story on every radio and television station in the United States and many abroad.” Later it was ranked among the top news stories of 1964.

Smoking and Health: Report of the Advisory Committee to the Surgeon General revealed cigarette smoking was responsible for a 70 percent increase in the mortality rate of smokers versus non-smokers. It estimated that average smokers had a nine- to ten-fold risk of developing lung cancer compared to non-smokers; heavy smokers, more than twenty-fold. The risk rose with the duration of smoking and diminished after cessation.

The report also named smoking as the most important cause of chronic bronchitis and pointed to a correlation between smoking and emphysema, and smoking and coronary heart disease. It noted that smoking during pregnancy reduced the average weight of newborns.

On one issue the committee balked: nicotine addiction. It insisted that the “tobacco habit should be characterized as an habituation rather than an addiction,” in part because the addictive properties of nicotine were not yet fully understood.

While the 1964 report lacked concrete recommendations, it had an impact on public attitudes and policy. A Gallup poll conducted in 1958 found that only 44 percent of Americans believed smoking caused cancer, while 78 percent believed so by 1968. In the course of a decade, it had become common knowledge that smoking damaged health, and mounting evidence of health risks gave Terry’s 1964 report public resonance.

Here is a brief, incomplete chronology of events and efforts made to combat tobacco and the companies that peddle it.

Cigarettes in U.S. History

  • 1913 –R. J. Reynolds launched Camel, the first modern mass-produced cigarette made from blended tobacco.
  • 1917 –Free cigarettes were included in the field rations of many American soldiers in World War I.
  • 1928 –Doctors Herbert L. Lombard and Carl R. Doering offered the first detailed statistical data showing a higher proportion of heavy smokers among lung cancer patients than among controls.
  • 1938 –Raymond Pearl demonstrated statistically that smoking shortens life expectancy.
  • 1941-45 –Tobacco was again supplied to American servicemen in World War II.
  • 1946 –Doctors Alton Ochsner and Michael DeBakey published an article in Archives of Surgery linking smoking to lung cancer and citing research articles from several countries.
  • 1950 –The Federal Trade Commission stated cigarette ads that highlight health benefits are deceptive.
cigarettes are hazardous to your health day
  • 1964 –Surgeon General Luther L. Terry issued Smoking and Health.
  • 1965 –Congress mandated health warnings on cigarette packs.
  • 1969-The Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act passed Congress, imposing a ban on cigarette advertising on television and radio after September 30, 1970.
  • 1973 –Arizona passed the first state law designating separate smoking areas in public places.
  • 1983 –Lung cancer surpassed breast cancer as the leading cause of death from cancer in women.

cigarettes are hazardous to your health day

  • 1987 –Congress banned smoking on all domestic flights of two hours or less; two years later smoking is banned on all domestic flights.
  • 1988 –Surgeon General C. Everett Koop’s report,  The Health Consequences of Smoking: Nicotine Addiction, called nicotine “a powerfully addicting drug.” In a 618-page summary of 2,000 studies, Koop declared, “It is now clear that… cigarettes and other forms of tobacco are addicting and that actions of nicotine provide the pharmacologic basis of tobacco addiction.”
  • 1992 –The Environmental Protection Agency placed passive smoke on its list of major carcinogens, making it subject to federal workplace and other regulations.


  • 1994 –Seven tobacco company executives testified before Congress that “nicotine is not addictive.”
    cigarettes are hazardous to your health day

The televised panel, led by Representative Henry Waxman, questioned the executives for six hours.

One executive insisted that cigarettes are no more addictive than coffee, tea or Twinkies.

The difference between cigarettes and Twinkies,” Waxman replied, “is death.


  • 2006 –On August 17, 2006, U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler issued a 1,683-page ruling holding tobacco companies liable for covering up health risks associated with smoking and for targeting children.
    cigarettes are hazardous to your health day
    The judgment ordered the companies to issue “corrective” ads admitting to the deceptive use of terms such as “light” and “low-tar,” among other things.

    The companies appealed for the next 11 years, claiming the findings pertained to the alleged inaccuracy of the companies’ public statements about smoking and health, not to whether anyone in the public was actually deceived by the defendants.

    Perhaps the ad should simply say, “A lie is the responsibility of the person who believes it.” That’s as good a defense of callous (and profitable) disregard for human life as any we may ever hear.

  • 2017 — The companies finally ran out of appeals. In December, Altria, RJ Reynolds Tobacco, Lorillard, and Philip Morris USA were forced to run ads that stated facts such as, “Cigarette companies intentionally designed cigarettes with enough nicotine to create and sustain addiction” and “More people die every year from smoking than from murder, AIDS, suicide, drugs, car crashes, and alcohol combined.”


It’s clear that the work of Dr. Terry and many others greatly affected health. Since 1964, smoking rates in the United States have dropped by more than half. It’s estimated that eight million lives have been saved by tobacco control efforts — yet up to 20 million more have been lost. Until the day we all kick the habit, every day will be Cigarettes are Hazardous to Your Health Day.

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April 5 is First Contact Day

First Contact Day won’t officially happen until April 5, 2063, when Dr. Zefram Cochrane takes off from Earth in the first warp-capable vessel, Phoenix–constructed from remnants of a nuclear missile in an underground bunker outside Bozeman, Montana–attracting the attention of a passing Vulcan survey ship, spurring the Vulcans to make, you guessed it, first contact with humans. (In the mirror universe, the date is celebrated for a different reason. It’s named a holy day because when the Vulcans land to greet them, Cochrane grabs a shotgun and leads a group of Terrans to kill them all.)

We can be forgiven for celebrating early since the Star Trek universe has always played around with intersecting timelines. In the film Star Trek: First Contact, the Borg arrive from the 24th century on April 4, 2063, to try to sabotage Phoenix (even though Earth will provide them with some tasty space peeps to assimilate in the future). The 24th-century Enterprise also time-jumps to repair the craft, borking the Prime Directive to beat the Borg collective.

April 5, 2022–41 BFC–may have been the most exciting (Before) First Contact Day yet, when a trailer for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds was released.

The newest addition to the Star Trek canon stars the OG space captain, Christopher Pike, shown left on Star Trek: The Original Series–the moniker offends my Trekkie eye but I bow to the will of the people–as a burned dude in a rolling iron-lung/personal-sauna contraption. (They could tune the thing to his brainwaves yet could only construct it to give yes-or-no answers? Even a Magic 8-Ball can say “maybe.” Come on now.)



It was also announced on April 5, 2022, that Star Trek: Picard will shoot a third, final season and will bring back many characters from Star Trek: The Next Generation, including Riker, Geordi, Worf, Deanna Troi, Dr. Crusher, and Data.


If you’re reading this in 2063, Happy First First Contact Day! If you see some people with pointy ears, don’t shoot!


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April 1 is April Fools’ Day

Today is April Fools’ Day, also known as April Fool’s Day. When we set out to determine its origins, we found a lot more theories than answers.

april fools' day

Satellites around Mars hoax – 1959

The ancient Romans celebrated the aptly-named Hilaria festival in late March to honor the resurrection of Attis, son of the Great Mother Cybele. It was essentially a big costume party, copied from the Greek ΑΝΑΒΑΣΙΣ (Ascensus). Did they play practical jokes? We like to imagine the thrill of tying someone’s gladiator sandals together and asking him to go get us more punch.

Was Chaucer the first author to refer to April Fools’ Day when he wrote Nun’s Priest’s Tale in 1392? Probably not. Scholars disagree in their interpretation of the phrase “thritty days and two.” Some believe it is meant to be added at the end of March (May 3rd); others, to its beginning (April 1st). The latter would seem to link the date to his tale of a fool being tricked by a fox. Chaucer may have been intentionally vague and, as a master of satire, would almost certainly delight in the literary dustup he caused.

The first direct reference to April 1st as a day to play jokes was written by Flemish poet Eduard de Dene in 1561. It is titled “Refereyn vp verzendekens dach / Twelck den eersten April te zyne plach,” which translates very roughly to “Refrain on errand-day / which is the first of April.” In it, a nobleman decides to trick his servant by sending him on numerous silly and unnecessary errands. What a funny guy! The servant realizes what his boss is up to and in the closing line of each stanza, says, “I am afraid…that you are trying to make me run a fool’s errand.”

april fools' day

Flying bus hoax – 1950

Another story claims that April Fools’ Day originated in France. On a trip to survey his kingdom, Charles IX noticed that church districts began the new year on many different days, including Christmas and Easter. On August 9, 1564, not long after his 14th birthday, the king issued the Edict of Roussillon, which included the decree that January 1st would mark the new year for all. It was enacted on January 1, 1567.

Legend holds that some people clung stubbornly to the old New Year’s Day and they were mocked as “April fools.” Dealing with multiple calendars and moveable feast days, some timed to consolidate pagan and Christian holidays, must have been confusing. But there is no record of anyone in France ever celebrating New Year’s Day on April 1st.

In Great Britain, March 25th was celebrated as New Year’s Day because it coincided with the Feast of Annunciation. The Christian observance lasted seven days, ending on April 1st. But the April Fool’s calendar-change theory doesn’t work there, either, since the country as a whole clung stubbornly to its tradition until 1752. By then, April Fools’ Day had already become a time-honored tradition.

As it turns out, Great Britain had been in on the joke for quite a while. On April 2, 1698, Dawks’s News-Letter reported, “Yesterday being the first of April, several persons were sent to the Tower Ditch to see the Lions washed.” Tickets were issued for admittance to the Annual Ceremony of Washing the Lions. Visitors were informed they must go to the White Gate to gain entrance.

april fools' day

Ticket hoax – 1857

There was no White Gate. There were no lions. But the ticket allowed the bearer to bring one friend. True humiliation only takes place when someone you know is there to see it.

To sum up, we still don’t know who created this holiday. We suspect the first prank happened in a cave when one guy stuck another guy’s hand in a puddle while he was sleeping to see if he could get him to wet his loincloth.

Have a happy April Fools’ Day!


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February 8 is National Girl Scout Cookie Day

National Girl Scout Cookie Day Worldwide Weird Holidays

A “Money Counts” merit badge? I guess greed really is good.


The first National Girl Scout Cookie Day was celebrated on February 8, 2013, created to “highlight the real purpose of the $790-million cookie program, which is to teach girls five essential skills: goal setting, decision making, money management, business ethics, and people skills.”

It appears not everyone buys into GSblog’s statement that cookie fans should order boxes “in honor of their success in running the largest girl-led business enterprise in the world.”

While researching this seemingly sweet and innocent holiday, I discovered a groundswell of belief that these cookie pushers have darker purposes. I found it in, of all places, The Washington Post, in the comment section of an article about how supply chain problems are affecting the production of Girl Scout cookies.

For context, a top article that day stated Biden’s White House would distribute 400 million free N95 masks to help control the spread of COVID-19, which continues to ravage Earth’s populace abetted by a concurrent plague of ignorance.

Another story detailed how AT&T and Verizon agreed to limit their rollout of new high-speed 5G networks near airports due to their potential to interfere with “airplane safety technology.” Turns out conspiracy theorists who shriek that 5G transmits COVID-19 simply lack imagination. For my money, dying in a plane crash because some idiot is checking his phone for up-to-the-minute health advice from Joe Rogan is way scarier. (Because of course those same folks will use 5G with no sense of irony. It’s faster.)

I normally stay away from comment boards for reasons anyone who doesn’t enjoy a headlong plunge down a manhole will understand. But a story about cookies, one that mentions Adventurefuls, the new “brownie-inspired cookies with caramel flavored crème and a hint of sea salt” seemed like a low-stakes issue. (I was a Girl Scout once. I never earned a merit badge and quit owing 20¢ in dues. I shudder to think how much interest has accrued.) So I looked at the comments, curious to read some lighthearted reminiscences.

When the first few seemed to equate Girl Scout cookies with crimes against humanity, I was intrigued, lured as always by the siren song of absurdity accompanied by a chorus of achingly earnest concern.

There were comments about sexism, racism, exploitation of minors, virulent consumerism, and environmental catastrophe. I enjoyed the ones that complained the cookies didn’t taste right and there were fewer in a box, apparently unhappy they weren’t provided more lousy cookies to hate-eat. Many mentioned the use of high fructose corn syrup in parallel with these concerns. (That assertion, at least, is untrue.) So I was primed to find that annoying when I read this:

I stopped buying Girl Scout cookies when they started using questionable ingredients like high fructose corn syrup and palm oil, the impacts of which are counter to the spirit of scouting, as I understand it. Palm oil, in particular, is the product of deforestation and threatens species like orangutans. As cheap as it is, I imagine the importation of it would be tied up at some of these ports and I’m not losing sleep over this type of supply chain issue.

These cookies aren’t about supporting Girl Scouts, but industries and interests behind it.

I responded:

Palm oil, yes. This needs to be phased out of everything. But it is difficult to engineer the same texture and flavors without it. That’s not an excuse but these cookies are like Proust’s madeleine. They take us back to our youth and we expect them to taste the same.

But they no longer contain high fructose corn syrup. Of course, it’s easy to hack the sugar shown in the ingredients by listing it in its individual forms to keep the blanket term “sugar” from being one of the first three ingredients.

And, for the love of Pete, of course, the makers and importers profit from it. Some of the profits do benefit the Girl Scouts organization, though. Everything we touch, wear, watch, eat, and drive benefits some corporate fat cats somewhere. That doesn’t make it right but we have to choose which things we rail against, don’t we? Otherwise, we’d be rocking in a corner, unable to do anything because of its potential butterfly effect.

I have to decide what I’m going to focus on and realize that my choices have consequences. And, consequently, I’ve spent the last ten minutes writing about how cookies are not going to make my list of corporate greed-head evils. So shame on me, I guess.

Now I’m going to go buy cookies from the Girl Scouts of Greater NY’s Troop 6000, which serves the NYC shelter system. I found it through a link on

Reading this again just now, I can see how mild the original comment was. I am reminded once again of why I should avoid comment sections; I can huff up so much fake outrage that I get high on it and fancy myself a balancing force of sarcasm.

I did place an order. The Thin Mints and Do-Si-Dos are just as I remember them. The Samoas were a disappointment only because Keebler makes a superior (alleged) dupe I’ve been eating for years. The Adventurefuls have “sugar” as the main ingredient and just don’t taste great, in my opinion. And, yes, I still ate the whole box.

Happy National Girl Scout Cookie Day!

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