strange, bizarre and kooky holidays in February

February 1 is G.I. Joe Day

Today is G.I. Joe Day. In February of 1964toymaker Hassenfeld Brothers (later shortened to Hasbro) introduced its first doll specifically intended for boys at the American International Toy Show in New York. The company hoped to duplicate the success of Mattel’s Barbie, which had been introduced in 1959 and sold a record 351,000 units in its first year.

But there was a problem. Parents wouldn’t buy dolls for their sons. Playing with dolls was considered a girl’s activity and boys generally wanted nothing to do with that. Some parents feared it might cause them to become effeminate and possibly even homosexual.

In a brilliant bit of marketing, the toymaker solved this issue by coining the term “action figure,” which has been used for countless toys since. It further masculinized the toy by making it a military man, G.I. (Government Issue) Joe. The name came from a 1945 American war film called The Story of G.I. Joe.

GI Joe Day

They also placed a scar across his right cheek. Not only did it denote manly ruggedness, combat and valor, but also enabled Hassenfeld Brothers to copyright the toy. (A generic human figure cannot be copyrighted.) The scar made it an identifiable character as did a production glitch that gave Joe an inverted thumbnail.

Four original G.I. Joes were released in 1964. An African-American soldier followed in 1965. “America’s Moveable Fighting Man” had a patented twenty-one points of articulation. Unlike standard toy soldiers, one-third the size and made of hard plastic, the Joes were fully poseable, allowing more creative play.
The Joes had been introduced while the U.S. was in the middle of an undeclared war in Vietnam. As it escalated and casualties mounted, the toys that had symbolized the brave fight against all foes, Communist and otherwise, lost their luster.
Women picketed the 1966 toy show in New York, holding umbrellas that read, “Toy Fair or Warfare?” Sears later dropped all war toys from its catalog. Fearing a boycott, Hasbro (which had shortened its name in 1968) phased out military uniforms and added flocked hair and beards. By 1970, the company had replaced the war-oriented Joe with the G.I. Joe Adventure Team.
gi joe day There were individual Land, Sea and Air Adventurer Joes, along with the more generalized Adventurer Joe and the mysterious Man of Action Joe. The kung-fu grip was born. Hasbro upped the merchandising quotient by selling props for scenes like White Tiger Hunt, Revenge of the Spy Shark, Secret of the Mummy’s Tomb, Capture of the Pygmy Gorilla and Sandstorm Survival.
We don’t know if kids became bored with every aspect of playtime being mapped out for them or if Hasbro was ahead of its time in roping parents into buying ancillary items, something that seems normal today. By 1976, the Joe brand was in trouble. Hasbro tried to cash in on the superhero craze by adding BulletMan to the lineup and throwing in a villainous caveman from outer space for good measure.
Nothing worked and production shut down in 1978. Joe was “furloughed,” according to Hasbro, never expected to return. But the stratospheric profitability of Star Wars merchandise would give Joe one more chance. Shrunken to the same size as those action figures–a little less than 4 inches tall–Joe came back on the scene in 1982.

In an inspired feat of cross-promotion, Hasbro produced a television cartoon called G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero as a vehicle to sell toys. It debuted as two five-part miniseries in 1983 and 1984 and ran as a regular series from 1985 to 1987. The show introduced new heroes, villains and storylines, spawning an ever-increasing number of action figures and turning viewers into avid collectors.

Each episode concluded with a Joe teaching kids valuable lessons like, “don’t go with strangers,” “don’t paint your bike in the garage,” and “blind kids can find lost kittens, too.” The kids would say, “Now we know!” and Joe would reply, “And knowing is half the battle!”

Now you know.

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

World Sword Swallower’s Day

world sword swallower's dayFebruary 27, 2016, marks the ninth annual World Sword Swallower’s Day, observed on the last Saturday of the month with performances at Ripley’s Believe it or Not locations across the U.S., Australia, Denmark, England and Malaysia.

Sword Swallowers Association International (SSAI) president Dan Meyer explains the genesis of World Sword Swallowers Day:

“I established World Sword Swallower’s Day in 2007 to promote this ancient art, still carried on by a few dozen surviving performers, to celebrate the courageous and daring performers who risk their lives to entertain audiences, to honor veteran performers, to raise awareness of the medical contributions sword swallowers have made in the fields of medicine and science, and to raise funds for esophageal cancer research and the Injured Sword Swallowers’ Relief Fund. “

Meyer is a 39-time world record holding sword swallower and motivational speaker who has given TEDx Talks around the globe, performed and lectured at events in 35 countries. He is available for corporate team building retreats, medical conferences and high school assemblies through his company, Cutting Edge Innertainment. While you’re there, check out this disturbing gallery of X-ray fluoroscopes tracking the sword or swords as they enter and leave his esophagus.

SSAI is a non-profit organization accepting donations to enable website maintenance, historical research and bookings. It also supports charities that study esophageal cancer, dysphagia, and other swallowing disorders. SSAI explains the need for its Injured Sword Swallowers’ Relief Fund:

There are on average from 4 to 6 serious sword swallowing injuries per year that require hospitalization, with costs of treatment running from $50,000 to $75,000 USD per injury. Any donations submitted will be sent directly to SSAI members who are struggling to pay off staggering medical bills that are the result of sword swallowing injuries.

If you’re near any of these Ripley’s Believe It or Not Odditoriums at 1:45 pm (local time), prepare to be amazed as sword swallowers demonstrate their craft. The free show will culminate in the simultaneous “Big Swallow” at 2:27:16 pm on 2/27/16. We guarantee that the next time you get a tickle in your throat, it won’t seem so bad. Funny thing, perspective.

Happy World Sword Swallower’s Day!


Copyright 2016 Worldwide Weird Holidays

International Hair Freezing Day

February 25, 2016, marks the sixth annual International Hair Freezing Day, a relatively new highlight of Canada’s Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous. The festival, in its 52nd year, runs from Friday, February 19th through Sunday, February 28th in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. At least 20,000 people are expected to attend.

Today’s festivities include the International Ice Carving Competition, Texas Hold ‘Em Poker Tournament, a pop-up casino at the Yukon Inn, sponsored by the Lion’s Club of Whitehorse, a fiddle show, a professional burlesque show with proceeds to raise funds for Rendezvous’ Kidsfest. (It’s all about the kids, of course.)

The Queen’s Luncheon takes place today at the Yukon College cafeteria. Those competing for the title of 2016 Rendezvous Queen will mingle with guests and be questioned as part of the judging process. The festival’s website is vague about pageant requirements, other than the ability to keep a straight face while having their photos taken in costumes straight from the rack of a vintage novelty photography studio.

Whatever talent portions lie in store for the ladies cannot possibly compare to what the gentlemen vying for 2016 Sourdough Sam must endure. (Seriously, there would be lawsuits.) Competitions include lip-synching, performing a dance floor striptease and—our favorite—a kielbasa-eating contest done while in drag.

This year’s entrants made a promotional video!

Getting back to the International Hair Freezing Contest: the event has been sponsored since 2011 by Takhani Hot Pools. Fed by hot springs flowing continuously at a rate of 385 liters (86 gallons) per minute, the pool area nearest the source is about 42° C (107.6° F). The far side of the pool drops to about 36° C (96.8° F). It doesn’t smell like rotten eggs as sulfurous springs do.Takhini Hot Springs is fortunate to contain no sulphurous odour as is common to most hot springs.

The contest rewards the participant who engineers the most creative frozen hairstyle while soaking in the pool. As the steam accumulates on your hair, the cold air freezes it, allowing you to shape it. When it’s finished, document it with a photo and submit it to Takhini’s Facebook page or email it to its website. Winners will be announced in March.

International Freeze Your Hair Day

After the above photo of the winners of the 2015 International Freeze Your Hair Day became popular worldwide, Takhini owner Andrew Umbrich has raised first prize from $150 to $750 CAD for 2016. Before you book the next flight, check out Umbrich’s competition guidelines. They may give you a headache.

Step 1: Come to the hot springs when it is cold. Preferably -20 or colder. If it is warmer than that it may take longer for desired frozen results.
Step 2: Dip your head in the hot springs and wet your hair.
Step 3: Take your head out of the water and allow the cold air to slowly freeze your hair. All wet hair will eventually freeze, this includes eyebrows and even eyelashes.
If you have very long hair, a good method to freeze it is to lay it down on the sides of the pool so it may freeze in single, long strands. Later, it can be propped up and it will stick straight up.
Step 4: Keep your ears warm. Periodically dip each ear into the hot springs water and be careful not to let your hair touch the water. If that cannot be done, then be tough.
Step 5: Wait.
Step 6: Wait some more.
Step 7: When the hair begins to freeze, slowly mold the hair into the desired shape. For example, one could gather all their hair into a point.
Step 8: Let the hair completely freeze. It will become pure white with frost and ice. Don’t worry, your hair won’t break or snap off.
Step 9: Take a picture and send it to the front desk, our Facebook page, or our email.
Step 10: Dunk your head in the water. Your hair will instantly unfreeze and your head will be nice and warm again.

Still thinking about it? Frozen eyelashes sound good to you? Have you always associated your sense of personal toughness with your ears’ endurance to bitter cold? (Umbrich told an interviewer that -20° C works for hair sculpting, but -30° C is ideal. Ideal. To literally spell it out, that is twenty-two degrees below zero Fahrenheit. We’ve seen documentaries of penguins suffering in warmer temperatures!)International Freeze Your Hair Day

If the image above doesn’t send you running for a cup of hot cocoa and an electric blanket or three, this may be the perfect holiday for you!

Brrr! Have a happy International Hair Freezing Day!

Copyright 2016 Worldwide Weird Holidays

Inconvenience Yourself Day

inconvenience yourself dayInconvenience Yourself Day has been celebrated on the fourth Wednesday in February since 2006. Julie Thompson, president of Environmental Resources Network in Fort Lauderdale, FL, created the holiday to encourage us all to recognize how our actions impact the lives of those around us.

It’s easy to become so focused on our own crazy to-do lists that we forget to hold open a door, let a customer with only a few items get ahead of us in line, thank someone who has helped us or just be kind to others when there is no tangible benefit to us.

We’d like to add a few suggestions to slow the pace of our hectic lives, if only for today. Call a friend instead of texting. Write a letter instead of a Facebook message. Cook a favorite meal instead of throwing something together. (Get the “good” china out of storage, if you have it; what are you saving it for?) Take a walk without any mobile devices and look around at your neighborhood, not just the view of the sidewalk you see past your cell phone.

The secret payoff of inconveniencing ourselves: it makes us feel good. Who knows? It could become a habit. Slow down, say thanks and have a happy Inconvenience Yourself Day!