strange, bizarre and kooky holidays happening in July

July 15 is Saint Swithin’s Day

st. swithin's day

St. Swithin, Winchester Cathedral

Today is Saint Swithin’s Day, a Roman Catholic feast day dedicated to the ninth-century Saxon Bishop of Winchester. (Spellings of his surname have varied. Swithin is correct in modern English, while Swithun was the spelling of choice in Old English. In the original Saxon language, according to Butler’s The Lives of the Saints, it was spelled Swithum.)

Swithin’s name has been associated with the weather for several centuries. The following Elizabethan rhyme, still well-known in the British Isles, explains:

St. Swithin’s day if thou dost rain
For forty days it will remain
St. Swithin’s day if thou be fair
For forty days ’twill rain nae mair.

Before the bishop died on July 2, 862, he asked to be buried outside so he would be trodden upon and the rain could fall on his grave. While the particulars of this story cannot be confirmed, his body was buried outside in front of the west door of the Saxon Old Minster. Visitors can see its outlines, now traced in brick.

Being left out in the elements was considered a terrible indignity by the Church. According to folklore, nine years after his death, workers attempted to dig up his grave but were met with a torrential downpour that swamped the proceedings. The heavy rains lasted for forty days, signaling Swithin’s disapproval.

On July 14, 971, it appeared that Swithin had changed his mind. The weather remained fine as his body was exhumed and “translated” to a shrine within the cathedral. On October 30, 974, his bones, called relics, were moved once again, this time to a jewel-encrusted gold and silver feretory platform behind the altar, a gift from Edgar, King of Wessex.

His head was moved to a separate locked compartment on the altar, where it remained until 1006 when Alphege was elevated from Bishop of Winchester to Archbishop of Canterbury and took it with him to his new post. Other parts of his skeleton were probably divided among several shrines over the following years. (The Second Council of Nicaea had decreed in 787 that every altar should contain a relic, so bones were often split up to make sure every church had at least one.)

Norman invaders razed the church and built a larger cathedral on the grounds. On July 14, 1093, Swithin’s bones—his relics—were translated to a shrine behind the new altar. A tunnel called the Holy Hole was dug so pilgrims could crawl directly under his bones, the better to receive their rumored miraculous healing powers.

In the early 16th century, King Henry VIII seized control of the Roman Catholic Church, stood in judgment of “clerical abuses” such as excommunication, forbade appeals to the Pope, and declared himself head of the Church of England. In the predawn hours of September 21, 1538, the king’s men entered Winchester Cathedral, destroyed the shrine and stole the platform. It was melted down a couple of years later. A builder filled in the Holy Hole.

saint swithin's day

Winchester Cathedral

In spite of his moniker, Saint Swithin was never officially canonized by the pope. (That practice wasn’t introduced until two centuries later.) The Royal Observatory in Greenwich Park, London, measured rainfall between 1841 through 1860 and found that the highest number of rainy days occurred when July 15th had been dry. In other words, his feast day is no more predictive than Groundhog Day.

Although nothing remains of the shrine today, those who make the pilgrimage to Winchester Cathedral will see the modern-day memorial and have the chance to walk in the footsteps of more than a millennium of history. We think Saint Swithin would approve.



Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

July 13 is Beans ‘n’ Franks Day

Today is Beans ‘n’ Franks Day. July is National Hot Dog Month. July 14 is National Hot Dog Day. We’ve no idea when hot dogs and baked beans were first combined.

The 500th birthday of the frankfurter was celebrated in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1987. Citizens of Vienna (Wien), Austria, dispute Frankfurt’s claim, citing their city’s name as proof the wiener was invented there.

The dish known as baked beans is of unknown provenance. In most recipes, then as now, beans were stewed, not baked. It was one of the first canned convenience foods, eaten by soldiers during the American Civil War.

Somewhere along the way, franks were added to the beans. It was a match made in culinary heaven. Whether you enjoy them separately or together, have a happy Beans ‘n’ Franks Day!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

National Simplicity Day

national simplicity dayJuly 12, 2017, is the 200th anniversary of Henry David Thoreau’s birth. His name is held in high regard and his work evokes a fondness and nostalgia in its readers and inspirational-quote-mongers.

Romantic notions of his retreat into nature and the wisdom it brought him are largely fictional. At Worldwide Weird Holidays, we’re okay with that. We ask only that publishers stop classifying this stuff as memoir.

Then maybe we can all stop trying to live up to an impossible standard that he didn’t even try to reach. Any pompous ass can say profound things when his mom’s on the way over to cook dinner.


National Simplicity Day honors the birthday, on July 12, 1817, of Henry David Thoreau, author, ersatz ascetic, armchair philosopher and navel-gazing misanthrope.

Thoreau famously went to live in a cabin in the woods, the better to ponder life without the inconvenience of other people and the irritations of everyday, well, life.

In Walden: or, A Life in the Woods, he wrote, “I frequently tramped eight or ten miles through the deepest snow to keep an appointment with a beechtree, or a yellow birch, or an old acquaintance among the pines.”

Thoreau certainly could turn a phrase; many of them clog the arteries of inspirational sites and satisfy the sweet tooth of quote-mongers who reverently offer them up on posters, mousepads and coffee mugs.

He neglected to mention that the area was bustling with people year-round. A commuter train passed nearby. He hosted parties. He lived a twenty-minute walk from his parent’s house and made the trip several times a week to enjoy his mother’s cooking.

The man who advised his readers to eat only one meal a day to avoid indulging base appetites was visited by his mother and sisters at least once a week to bring him food, tidy up the cabin and clean his laundry.

Exhortations to simplify one’s life can be helpful, but they often mask disdain and smug superiority. Thoreau reminds us of the intrepid explorer in a documentary, ostensibly forging a path trodden moments before by the cameraman walking backward in front of him.

Have a happy National Simplicity Day but if you can’t keep it simple, don’t worry: you’re in good company.

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

July 11 is Cheer Up the Lonely Day

cheer up the lonely dayToday is Cheer Up the Lonely Day, created by Francis Pesek of Detroit, Michigan. His daughter L.J. Pesek described him as “a quiet, kind, wonderful man who had a heart of gold.”

“He got the idea as a way of promoting kindness toward others who were lonely or forgotten as shut-ins or in nursing homes with no relatives or friends to look in on them.” She said he chose July 11 because it was his birthday.

What is the definition of the word lonely?
ˈlōnlē/ adjective
  1. sad because one has no friends or company.
    “lonely old people whose families do not care for them”
    • without companions; solitary.
      “passing long lonely hours looking onto the street”
    • (of a place) unfrequented and remote.
      “a lonely stretch of country lane”

The elderly can become isolated as their circles of friends grow smaller due to the illness and death of their contemporaries. They may be relocated to facilities at the fringes of their communities. Loss of physical mobility makes it a struggle to visit others; losing autonomy after lives spent caring for themselves and others takes a psychological toll that can result in depression.

Mark Twain once said, “The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer up somebody else.” There’s no denying that time spent face-to-face with loved ones, telling them how much they mean to us, does our hearts good. We also know what it’s like to be lonely. It can happen in the middle of a crowd. It only takes a moment to be kind to a stranger today.

Have a happy Cheer Up the Lonely Day and remember how good it feels. That way, we can keep it going tomorrow and every day after that.

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays