strange, bizarre and kooky holidays happening in July

July 9 is Flitch Day

flitch day

Flitch bearers, 2016

Today is Flitch Day, a custom dating back to 1104 in Little Dunmow, a village in Essex, England.

First, a little background is in order. A flitch is half a pig, cut lengthwise, salted and cured, also known as a full side of bacon. The story goes that a year and a day after their nuptials, Lord Reginald Fitzwater and his wife disguised themselves as peasants and traveled to the local monastery to beg blessings for their happy marriage.

The monk who received them was so impressed by their devotion that he gave them a flitch. In what could be called the first episode of Undercover Boss, Lord Fitzwater revealed his identity and promised his land to the monastery. He had one condition: the monks must award a flitch to any couple who could prove their love after a year and a day. (Who better to judge marital bliss than men who’ve taken a vow of chastity?)

Word of the tradition called the Dunmow Flitch Trials spread. Author William Langland referred to it in his 1362 book, The Vision of Piers Plowman. In the early 15th century, Geoffrey Chaucer alluded to it in The Canterbury Tales.

Records weren’t kept until 1445, when Richard Wright of Norwich was victorious, according to documents preserved in the British Museum. One hundred years later, King Henry VIII closed the monasteries, but the trials endured, overseen by the current Lord of the Manor.

In 1832, George Wade, Steward of Little Dunmow, declared the contest “an idle custom bringing people of indifferent character into the neighborhood.” The Dunmow Flitch Trials moved to Great Dunmow but declined in popularity, then lapsed entirely.

The custom was revived after the success of Harrison Ainsworth’s  novel, The Custom of Dunmow, published in 1855. In it, he told the tale of a man so desperate to win the flitch that he married a succession of wives to find his perfect match.

The event has been held in Great Dunmow ever since. After World War II, it was decided that the trials would take place only in leap years. Luckily, 2016 is such a year. If you can’t make it there today, you have four more years to perfect your marriage. Who knows? In 2020, they might allow same-sex couples!

Did the phrase “bring home the bacon” originate with this contest? Though many believe so, we may never be certain. By the way, losers aren’t sent home empty-handed. They receive a consolation prize of gammon, the hind leg of a pig. The one thing we know for sure is that this is no fun for the pigs.

Happy Flitch Day!

Copyright 2016 Worldwide Weird Holidays

International Cherry Pit Spitting Championship

international cherry pit spitting festivalJuly 2, 2016, is the 43rd Annual International Cherry Pit Spitting Championship, held each year in Eau Claire, MI, on the first Saturday of July. Tree-Mendus Fruit Farm hosts this event, calling it a “Spit-tacular Day” where you can “spit your pit in public with only a minimal loss of dignity while gaining fame.”
It’s the only cherry pit spitting contest recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records. (In case you’re curious, the world record belongs to Brian “Young Gun” Krause, 37, of Lansing, MI,  who spat his pit a whopping 93 feet 6½ inches in 2003.)

There are some interesting ground rules. The spitting range is available for practice spitting from 10:00 a.m. until noon. Those wishing to practice are limited to a maximum of three spits.

No foreign objects may be held in the mouth which would give an advantage in spitting the pit. Denture racks will be provided for those wishing to remove their teeth.

We assume organizers accept no responsibility for lost property due to someone mistakenly taking the wrong dentures after the contest or intentionally grabbing someone else’s because it’s a nicer set of choppers. (Note: The perpetrator will be the person who never smiles when you’re around.)

Contestants must select three cherries from the regulation variety (Montmorency) supplied by the tournament committee. Cherries must be washed and chilled to 55-60°F pit temperature.

When called by the tournament judge, the contestant has 60 seconds to insert the whole cherry, chew and swallow everything but the pit and get to the line. No part of the cherry may be removed after insertion. The spit is forfeited if a pit is swallowed. Hands must stay below the shoulders to prevent popping one’s cheeks.

Spitters must stand flat on the ground — or ground level platform — to spit. Spitters are prohibited from using any kind of mechanical or other device to improve body thrust or spit length (including hydraulic hoists, wall support, etc.)

The contest is serious business. In addition to a distance judge, line judge, timekeeper and scorekeeper, there is an official tournament judge, honorary judges, an emcee and announcer—described as spit-by-spit announcer and color man—and a pit sweeper, which has our vote for least glamorous duty.

The first champion back in 1974 was Dan Kingman of Dowagiac, MI, with a distance of 41 feet. In 2015, Megan Ankrapp of Buchanan, MI, took the prize with a spit of 49 feet ¼ inch. Who will break Guinness Book’s world record? Do you have what it takes? It’s never too late to start practicing, preferably outside, where it’s less messy.

Copyright 2016 Worldwide Weird Holidays