strange, bizarre and kooky holidays in January

January 21 is National Hugging Day

Today is National Hugging Day. The holiday was created in 1986 by Reverend Kevin Zaborney, whose National Whiner’s Day is a favorite here at Worldwide Weird Holidays.

Hugs make us happy, help relieve stress, and communicate affection without saying a word. National Hugging Day’s official website recommends asking for permission first.

National Hugging Day has gained worldwide popularity and is celebrated in countries including Canada, England, Germany, Sweden, Australia, Bulgaria and Guam. In light of this, many suggest changing the holiday’s name to International Hugging Day.

Each year, Reverend Zaborney singles out a champion hugger for praise. His award for the Most Huggable Person of 2016 went to Tim Harris.

national hugging day

Tim Harris is a Special Olympian with Down Syndrome. (He happened to turn 30 years old on January 21, 2016.) Until recently, he owned Tim’s Place in Albuquerque, NM where, he said, “The most sought after item is one that never gets cold, is sweet but not too sweet, guilt-free, calorie-free, and guaranteed to brighten your day…a free hug from Tim himself. Our concept is breakfast, lunch and hugs seven days a week!”

Tim hosted his first Hug-A-Thon in 2014. He hugged more than 1,000 people and raised $6,000 for non-profit Firefighters Random Acts. (He also hugged a certain world leader that year.)

national hugging day

In 2015, he hugged more than 2,000 people and raised $13,000 in donations. So what are you waiting for? Go out there and get hugging!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

January 20 is National Disc Jockey Day

Today is National Disc Jockey Day. It marks the death of legendary radio DJ Albert James “Alan” Freed (December 15, 1921 – January 20, 1965).

national disc jockey day freed

Freed’s radio career began in 1945 at WAKR in Akron, Ohio, where he played rhythm and blues (R&B) records. He moved to WJW Cleveland in 1951 and continued to champion music without regard to race, at a time when stations that targeted white listeners ignored black artists.

Freed began calling the music “rock and roll” because “it seemed to suggest the rolling, surging beat of the music.” The term was suggestive, already in use as slang for sex, but Freed was the first radio DJ to use it.

As his show’s popularity increased, Freed decided to stage a dance at the Cleveland Arena. Tickets to the “Moondog Coronation Ball” on March 21, 1952, sold out. Thousands more showed up to crash the party. Although the police shut it down early, it is considered by many historians as the first real rock concert.

In 1954, after a salary dispute, Freed moved to WINS New York and called his late-night show “Rock ‘n’ Roll Party.” The concerts he organized in New York and other cities began to draw white as well as black youth. Soon enough, Freed made enemies of the three Ps: parents, priests, and press. The Daily News labeled the music “an inciter of juvenile delinquency” and named Freed the chief instigator.

At first, this only increased his fame. WINS doubled his airtime; he began to get co-writing credits and royalties on the songs he played. He played himself in a series of musical films. In July of 1957, ABC hired Freed to host a TV show called The Big Beat but canceled it after the fourth episode showed a black singer dancing with a white girl, drawing protests from the network’s southern affiliates. It kept him on at WABC radio in the New York market.

national disc jockey day

On May 5, 1958, when police refused to lower the lights, potentially allowing teenagers to “neck” in the dark at a Boston event, Freed told the crowd, “It looks like the Boston police don’t want you to have a good time.” As a result, Freed was arrested and charged with attempting to incite a riot, One local paper printed the opinion that Freed’s “jam sessions…tend to become the magnet for hoodlums whose jungle instincts are aroused by the caterwauling and mass hypnotism, particularly if enough police are not alerted.”

He was subsequently fired by WINS but continued to spin records for WABC and host a local version of Big Beat on WNEW-TV New York until November 1959 when he was fired from the network after “payola” accusations surfaced and he refused to sign a statement denying involvement. Freed said he had accepted gifts that didn’t influence airplay.

Payola,” a contraction of the words “pay” and “Victrola” (an LP record player),  refers to payments from record companies to play specific records, a practice that was controversial but not illegal at the time. Alan Freed and Dick Clark were the top DJs in the country and the focus of the investigation.

Dick Clark gave up all his musical interests when ordered to do so by ABC-TV. He admitted a $125 investment in Jamie Records had returned a profit of $11,900 and that, of the 163 songs he had rights to, 143 were given to him, but denied accepting payola. As Clark told Rolling Stone in 1989, the lesson he learned from the payola trial was: “Protect your ass at all times.”

Freed didn’t fare so well. He was convicted on two counts of commercial bribery—which was a crime—for accepting $2,700, which he claimed was only a token of gratitude. He paid a $300 fine and received a six-month suspended sentence. Accepting “payola” was put on the books as a misdemeanor offense later.

Blackballed by the industry, he never worked for a prestigious station again and drifted between small stations in California and Florida before dying a poor and bitter man on January 20, 1965, due to cirrhosis of the liver brought on by alcohol abuse. He was 43 years old.

Freed was cremated and interred in Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, NY. In March 2002, his ashes were moved to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. Freed’s association with Cleveland was a large part of the decision to locate the museum there.

national disc jockey day

Thirty years ago, on January 23, 1986, he was in the first group inducted into the Hall of Fame, with Elvis Presley, James Brown, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ray Charles and others. The radio station that broadcasts from within the museum is named the Alan Freed Studio.

On August 1, 2014, the Hall of Fame removed his ashes from view and asked his family to come get them. Executive Director Greg Harris said that the original request to put the urn on view at the museum came from the Freed family. “We planned on returning them all along,” he said.

In 2002, then Rock Hall CEO Terry Stewart said, “I’m sure some people will find it unusual and others might find it morbid. It’s certainly appropriate in a rock ‘n’ roll sense to have his final resting place here.” The key word is final.  There is no indication that Freed’s family intended to loan out his ashes.

The removal came just days after the museum opened an exhibit featuring Beyoncé’s costumes, including the black leotards she wore in her 2008 “Single Ladies” video. Harris defended the timing, saying, “Rock and roll isn’t just about yesterday. It continues to evolve, and we continue to embrace it and refine our operations.”

Perhaps it’s a fitting end for Freed’s ashes, considering that the man was rejected by the industry he helped to create. His family decided to keep his ashes in Cleveland at Lake View Cemetery. The Hall of Fame continues to pay tribute to Freed with other artifacts and sells a bronze-plated coin celebrating the inductees of 1986 for $32.39 at its gift shop. Rock on.

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays


January 19 is Tin Can Day

tin can day

Today is Tin Can Day. On this date in 1825, the first U.S. patent for the invention of the tin can was awarded to  Ezra Daggett and Thomas Kensett. Like many things, the story of the tin can is not without intrigue. (Tintrigue?) A little history:


Paris confectioner Nicolas Appert invented a method of sealing foods in glass jars, then placing them in boiling water, effectively sterilizing them, decades before Louis Pasteur demonstrated that heat killed bacteria.

In 1810, Appert entered a competition sponsored by the French military. He won a cash prize in exchange for making his findings public. The preserved goods were a boon to the armed forces, especially the French navy, which had no fresh food for long stretches while at sea. Appert is considered by many to be the “father of canning,” despite never using cans.


There were drawbacks to Appert’s system: glass was heavy, fragile and prone to rupture from internal pressure. Later in 1810, British merchant Peter Durand received a patent from King George III to preserve foods in tinplated cans.

Durand is well-known as the inventor of the tin can but his patent application reveals it was “an invention communicated to him by a certain foreigner residing abroad.” Evidence suggests that Frenchman Philippe de Girard came to London and used Durand as an agent to patent his own creation.

On January 28, 1811, Sir Charles Blagden, a fellow of the Royal Society, wrote of Girard’s frequent visits to test his canned foods on the members. “M Girard came and brought his preserved foods…The broth had been kept since August last, he said. The milk and beef six weeks…His patent is taken out in the name of Durand.”

Why not file in France? Girard had recently designed a flax-spinning loom for which Napoleon promised a reward of one million francs but never paid. But there’s no record of Durand paying him for the rights.

In any case, Durand sold the British patent to Bryan Donkin for one thousand pounds. In 1818, Durand received a U.S. patent for the same design he’d sold in England. Perhaps Durand should be hailed, not as an inventor, but as a recycler. (Girard continued to innovate, without much financial success, until his death in 1844.)

United States

Until America won its independence in 1783, the power to grant patents was that of the British crown. The United States Constitution of 1787 first included provision for the Congress to issue patents:

The Congress shall have Power . . . To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.

The first Patent Act, “An Act to promote the progress of useful arts,” was enacted in 1790 and enabled any two of the secretary of state, the secretary of war, and the attorney general to grant patents lasting 14 years for new inventions and innovations that were “useful and important.”

We have finally arrived at our stated destination. Daggett and Kensett received their patent for the process of “preserving animal substances” on January 19, 1825. More than 4,000 patents had been granted in the United States by that time, one of them Durand’s.

So who should we credit for the tin can? We’re not sure but one person we should all thank is Ezra J. Warner, who patented the first can opener —decades later—on January 5, 1858.

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

January 18 is Thesaurus Day

Today is Thesaurus Day. It celebrates the birthday on January 18, 1779, of Peter Roget, who published his Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases in 1852, at the age of 72.

Thesaurus DayAccording to Joshua Kendall’s biography, The Man Who Made Lists, Roget was compelled from an early age to create lists and tally objects to bring order to a chaotic childhood filled with mentally ill family members, including an uncle who cut his own throat and died in Roget’s arms.

Roget’s obsessions followed him into adulthood. He found that counting things gave him comfort and noted, ” I every day go up at least 320 steps.” He marveled at his ability to control the movement of his own irises.

He found Paris filthy but admired the precision of Napoleon’s military parades. Later, as a doctor in his native England, he helped introduce lifesaving public health policy in Manchester. The city’s squalor drove him to spend his evenings composing the synonymic word lists that would eventually make up the Thesaurus.

He never intended it as a book of synonyms: he felt there was “really no such thing” because of the unique meaning of every word. Instead, it was an elaborate system of 1,000 lists meant to spur readers to higher levels of scholarship. The index he added, almost as an afterthought, is the only part that most people use. He continued to revise and update it until his death at the age of 90.

To honor Thesaurus Day, we consulted it for a synonym for “synonym.” We found “analogue,” “equivalent” and the obviously trying-too-hard “metonym.”

What about synonyms for “thesaurus?” Along with “glossary” and “lexicon,” we found less worthy terms such as “sourcebook” and “reference book.” Our favorite? “Onomasticon.” Try to sneak that into a sentence today and have a happy Thesaurus Day!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays