weird and wacky holidays happening in April

April 6 is New Beer’s Eve

April 6th, 1933, is known in the U.S. as New Beer’s Eve because it was the last night that Prohibition kept citizens from freely enjoying a glass of beer.

new beer's eve

On January 16, 1919, the 18th amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified. It stated:

After one year from the ratification of this article the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all the territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited.

Prohibition initially had broad public support. The temperance movement, in existence since 1784, contended that drunkenness caused immoral behavior, spousal abuse, parental neglect and chronic unemployment. An especially compelling argument arose during World War I when groups stated that the barley used to brew beer should have been used to bake bread to feed the troops.

The amendment did not make the drinking of alcohol illegal. Stockpiles amassed before enactment, which could be quite massive in the case of wealthy people with large wine cellars or warehouses, were permitted for personal use. Fruit beverages fermented in the home were allowed as was any liquor used expressly for medicinal, sacramental or industrial purposes. Suddenly, doctors began writing prescriptions for whiskey cures.

The denatured alcohol used by American industries was treated with poisonous chemicals to make it unsafe to drink, thereby avoiding the excise tax on spirits. It’s almost impossible to separate with modern distillation equipment, let alone the stills used in those days. Illegal bars called speakeasies created sweet concoctions like the Tom Collins and Whiskey Sour to mask the harsh taste. Some customers suffered permanent blindness, paralysis or death.

Prohibition inadvertently played a part in the ascendancy of organized crime. Bootleggers like Al Capone made enormous profits. The Mafia was able to consolidate its power in places like New York City and Chicago. Many began to accuse Prohibition of causing the very immorality it sought to defeat; it became, in essence, a cure worse than the disease.

By the time Franklin D. Roosevelt ran for president in 1932, his promise to repeal Prohibition was a popular one. Soon after his election, he passed a law declaring that as of April 7, 1933, states would be permitted to sell beer with its alcohol content limited to 3.2% by weight (4% by volume), as it was considered too low to be intoxicating. (We can only assume that chugging was not taken into account when reaching that conclusion.) After signing the legislation, Roosevelt supposedly remarked, “I think this would be a good time for a beer.”

Many Americans agreed, lining up on April 6th outside bars and breweries to wait until midnight, when they would be able to legally buy beer for the first time in more than 13 years. They must have looked a bit like shoppers impatient for stores to open their doors on Black Friday or the faithful queueing up in front of the Apple store before the latest iPhone launch. But way more fun.

On December 5, 1933, the 21st amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified. It is the only resolution to be passed using state ratifying conventions instead of state legislatures. Each state was given one up-or-down vote, circumventing the need to win a popular vote. It stands as the only amendment that has ever been passed to repeal an earlier one.

So raise a toast to President Roosevelt and have a happy New Beer’s Eve! (Pace yourself; tomorrow is National Beer Day.)

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

 

April 5 is National Caramel Day

Today is National Caramel Day, one of the most delicious holidays of the year.

national caramel dayThe name has a long history. The English word is cadged from the French caramel, which has roots in 18th-century Spain’s caramelo, which in turn dates back to the Late Latin calamellus. The granddaddy of them all comes from the Greek κάλαμος. 

But who really cares about the name? Buy some caramels or make your own caramel sauce. Put a little spice in your life with the salted version. (We don’t know who came up with that, but thank you, whoever you are!)

Why not try this recipe?

Salted Caramel Sauce

Ingredients

1 cup white sugar
5 Tbsp. butter, cut into slices
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp. heavy whipping cream
1 pinch sea salt to taste

Directions

Prep time:5 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes

Place sugar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan set over medium-high heat. Stir continuously until sugar begins to melt. Continue stirring until the sugar melts completely, begins to darken and all the chunks are dissolved, about 10 minutes. Stop stirring and continue to cook until the sugar begins to smoke and turns a dark shade of amber, 3 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat and wait 30 seconds.

Whisk in butter until melted and combined. Slowly pour in 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon cream, taking care not to let it bubble over. Sprinkle in salt and stir to combine. Transfer sauce to a jar and cool completely before refrigerating.

Maybe you’d prefer a tasty libation instead:

Salted Caramel Martini

Ingredients

2 Tbsp. grated chocolate
Sea salt
2 Tbsp. caramel sauce
6 ounces Bailey’s Caramel Irish Cream

Instructions

  1. Grate chocolate with cheese grater and place in circle larger than glass on a piece of parchment.
  2. Add a dash of salt to the chocolate.
  3. On another piece of parchment put a circle of caramel sauce.
  4. Dip glass into caramel, then dip into chocolate.
  5. Refrigerate glass to chill.
  6. Pour Bailey’s Caramel flavored Irish Cream into a shaker with ice to chill.
  7. Pour into cold glasses. Serves 2.

However you decide to celebrate it, have a happy National Caramel Day!

 

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

April 4 is World Rat Day

Today is World Rat Day. Back in 2002, members of the ratlist—the longest-standing mailing list about rats on the Internet—proposed the creation of a holiday to raise awareness of rats’ intelligence, affectionate natures and other qualities that make them excellent pets.world rat dayThe ratlist, which boasts over 2,300 members, has served as a meeting place and clearinghouse for pet care information since 1995. Current custodians James Kittock and Robyn Arthur took over the group on April 4th, making it the perfect choice for World Rat Day.

How should you celebrate? The World Rat Day site has a few suggestions: send greeting cards to fellow rat lovers around the globe. Hold get-togethers called Ratfests, as private parties or public events. Invite the media to attend, address the prejudice against these animals and encourage positive coverage in print and on television.

Or you could just make this a special day for you and your pets by giving them fun gifts and tasty treats. Take photos and videos. Post your favorites here or links to YouTube. Have a happy World Rat Day!

More rat-related celebrations:
January 30 is American Fancy Rat and Mouse Show

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

April 3 is Tweed Day

Today is Tweed Day, but it doesn’t celebrate the woolen fabric favored by the British upper class for sporting outfits and by college professors for suede-elbowed lecture hall jackets.

Instead, Tweed Day is named for one of the most corrupt politicians in New York history. William Magear “Boss” Tweed was born on April 3, 1823. He began his political life in 1851 as a city alderman. Five years later, he was elected to a newly-established city board of supervisors and began to consolidate his power in Tammany Hall, the seat of the Democratic political machine in New York City.

tweed day

Tweed once said, “I don’t care who does the electing so long as I get to do the nominating.” Candidates he backed were elected governor of New York, mayor of New York City and speaker of the state assembly. He installed allies in city and county positions as well; the network became known as the “Tweed Ring.”

He opened a law office in 1860 to extort money from corporations under the guise of high fees for his “legal services,” despite the fact that he was not a lawyer. He began purchasing acres of Manhattan real estate, then promoting the expansion of the city into those areas.

Eight years later, Tweed was elected to the New York State Senate and also became the official leader of Tammany Hall. In 1870, he and his ring passed a new charter that placed them in charge of the city treasury. They began to systematically drain the city’s coffers using fake vouchers and leases, padded invoices and other means.

Business leaders like John Jacob Astor turned a blind eye to Tammany Hall, as long as it continued to line their pockets and keep immigrants in line. But by 1871, it became apparent that graft had brought the city to the brink of financial collapse. In July of that year, 60 died in a riot between Irish Protestants and Roman Catholics at a parade. The city’s well-to-do began to feel threatened and blamed Tweed for failing to control the rabble and keep them safe.

Tweed was arrested and, while out on bail, campaigned for and won re-election to the state senate. He was rearrested and forced to surrender his city posts and resign as Tammany leader. In January 1873, his first trial ended in a hung jury. His second trial that November resulted in a fine of $12,750 and twelve years in prison. A higher court later reduced the sentence to one year.

Soon after his release in 1875, New York State filed a civil suit against Tweed in an attempt to recover $6 million in embezzled funds; he was arrested yet again and held in Ludlow Street Jail. He couldn’t post bail but was allowed home visits and took the opportunity to escape to Spain, where he worked as a seaman.

Tweed had long despised political cartoonist Thomas Nast, saying, “I don’t care so much what the papers say about me. My constituents don’t know how to read, but they can’t help seeing them damned pictures!” His hatred deepened after someone recognized him from Nast’s drawings and turned him in. He was detained at the Spanish border and returned to the U.S. on an American warship.

After his return to Ludlow Street Jail in November 1876, Tweed agreed to testify against his former ring in exchange for his release. But after he had done so, the governor of New York reneged on the deal. He remained in the jail, where he died of pneumonia on April 12, 1878. His body was buried in Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery. In a final insult to the man who had ruled and robbed the city, mayor Smith Ely refused to fly City Hall’s flag at half-mast, traditionally done as a sign of mourning for respected public figures.

We’re not sure who chose this man’s birthday as a holiday, or why. While it’s easy to view Boss Tweed as an outlandish character governed by insatiable appetites, it’s important to remember that his exploits did not occur in a vacuum. They succeeded because of the implicit or explicit approval of all those who profited. 

Of course, greed and corruption didn’t die with him. Perhaps the best way to learn from his life is to value compassion over avarice, to guard against the loss of concern for our fellow man, and to keep an eye out for the Boss Tweeds of today—so we don’t get fooled again.

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays