weird and wacky holidays happening in May

May 18 is I Love Reese’s Day

Today is I Love Reese’s Day, a celebration of the marriage of chocolate and peanut butter and the visionary who got them together in the first place.

This mascot is creepy, no?

In 1917, Harry Burnett Reese (May 24, 1879 – May 16, 1956) took a job on a dairy farm owned by the Hershey Company and later worked in the candy factory itself.

Inspired, he began to experiment with different candy formulas in his basement, with the intention of making extra money to care for his growing family.

He created the H. B. Reese Candy Company in 1923, selling a large variety of confections. He was so successful that three years later he was able to build a factory as well as a new home.

By 1928, Reese and his wife Blanche had sixteen children. That same year, H. B. Reese invented Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, sometimes called penny cups because they cost one cent apiece. They quickly became his most popular treat.

In response to sugar rationing during World War II, Reese chose to discontinue production of everything but the peanut butter cups, which required less sugar than his other candies. It was a savvy move that guaranteed his family’s prosperity.

Reese died in 1956 at the age of 76, leaving the company to his six sons, Robert, John, Ed, Ralph, Harry, and Charles Richard Reese. In 1963, they decided to sell the business to the Hershey’s Chocolate Company, where Reese had gotten his start close to 50 years before.

Documentation shows the brothers received 666,316 Hershey shares, then valued at $23.5 million. By 2013, after 50 years of stock splits, those shares had become sixteen million shares, valued at more than $1 billion, paying $31 million in annual cash dividends.

In 2010, Hershey sponsored a Facebook petition to declare May 18 I Love Reese’s Day and reported that 40,000 people signed it. Since then, it’s been promoted by the National Peanut Board and reigns as the most popular candy in the United States.

Today, Hershey announced it will introduce a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup stuffed with Reese’s Pieces. Tasty combination or culinary abomination? You decide and, no matter what your favorite is, have a happy I Love Reese’s Day!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

May 17 is National Walnut Day

national walnut dayToday is National Walnut Day, created in 1949 by the Walnut Marketing Board. The holiday was affirmed in 1958 by the official proclamation of President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Most walnuts come from the Persian or English tree, Juglans regia, originally grown in Asia and now cultivated around the world. The lesser-known eastern black walnut tree, Juglans nigra, and butternut or white walnut tree, Juglans cinerea, are native to eastern North America.

According to Harpers’ Latin Dictionary, the genus gets its name from the Latin word for walnut tree,  jūglans, which is a contraction of  Jōvis glans, which translates to “nut of [the god] Jupiter.” Perhaps that explains why many sites claim the arginine found in walnuts dilates blood vessels and increases blood flow, causing erections. (Don’t munch a handful before a business meeting.)

Black walnut has been hailed by some as a miracle cure because of its alleged ability to kill a parasite that is supposedly responsible for cancer. No word on whether it works: We can’t get anyone who used it to answer our calls.

In China, walnuts are prized for a different reason. Reuters reported in 2012 that a secondary market in “cultural playthings” had emerged as a result of weak or negative returns in the traditional stock market.

Once the toys of China’s imperial court, walnuts have become popular among the wealthy, who see them as a status symbol as well as an investment. They are collected in pairs and rotated in one’s hand to improve circulation.

Collector Kou Baojun in Beijing told Reuters that the larger, older and more symmetrical the walnuts are, the more highly they are valued and can cost tens of thousands of dollars. He owns more than 30 pairs, most of which are over a century old and have become burnished from years of being polished in the palm.

“Look how well these have aged,” Kou said. “Playing with these kinds of walnuts isn’t for ordinary people.”

Grab a pair and have a happy National Walnut Day!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

National Sea Monkey Day

Today is National Sea Monkey Day, also known as Sea-Monkey Day. In 1957, entrepreneur Harold von Braunhut noticed that desiccated brine shrimp were able to survive for extended periods of time in a suspended state known as cryptobiosis.

The result was a novelty item called Instant Life that could be reconstituted and grown in water. It was a neat, slightly creepy trick which caused many children to wonder if spontaneous generation was possible, and, if so, what might be swimming around in their bathwater at any given time. The product required a rethink.

With the assistance of marine biologist Anthony D’Agostino, von Braunhut developed a type of brine shrimp that could more easily withstand shipping and hatch more successfully. He engaged cartoonist Joe Orlando to illustrate comic book advertisements and rebranded the shrimp as “Amazing Sea-Monkeys.”

National Sea Monkey Day


national sea monkeys day

…meets reality.

It may not surprise you to hear that sea-monkeys are not, in fact, monkeys. These tiny crustaceans don’t need the packet of “Mating Powder” included in kits because they can reproduce asexually when necessary. (That may help explain why they’ve been around for 100 million years.) They start life with one eye and grow two more. A female’s uterus can hold up to 200 eggs—don’t ask us who counted—and the male has two reproductive organs.

This was von Braunhut’s most financially successful invention but not his only one. He held nearly 200 patents and was the creator of X-Ray Specs, Crazy Crabs, Amazing Hair-Raising Monsters and the Invisible Goldfish, an empty bowl accompanied by the “100% guarantee” no fish will ever appear.

He also designed the Kiyoga Agent M5 “Steel Cobra,” a pen-sized weapon that telescoped into a metal baton, marketing it as the most effective self-defense tool available without a license. Burt Reynolds used it to whip some bad guys in his 1981 movie, “Sharkey’s Machine.”

It soon attracted the kind of publicity its inventor preferred to avoid. In 1987, Richard Girnt Butler, chief of the Aryan Nations, then considered the country’s most dangerous white supremacist group, faced charges of plotting to murder federal officials and overthrow the U.S. government. He enclosed a Kiyoga brochure in a fundraising letter, stating that the “manufacturer has made a pledge of $25 to my defense fund for each one sold to Aryan Nations supporters.”

It was an outrageous claim that drew attention to von Braunhut. Butler soon confirmed to a reporter at the Spokane, Washington-based Spokesman-Review that the inventor was an old pal and “member of the Aryan race who has supported us quite a few years.”

The following year, The Washington Post revealed von Braunhut had helped purchase firearms for members of a Ku Klux Klan group in Ohio. It also reported that “the 62-year-old supporter of neo-Nazi groups was born and raised in New York City as Harold Nathan Braunhut, a Jew,” going so far as to track down a cousin who said he probably attended his bar mitzvah. Harold Nathan Braunhut added von to his name as an adult in order to sound more Germanic.

According to the Los Angeles Times, rumors had swirled about von Braunhut’s ethnicity for years. Floyd Cochran, former spokesman for the Aryan Nations, called him a misfit with “a rather large nose for a person of the Aryan Nations,” adding, “He’d give long speeches about numerology and he’d make references to the pyramids. It just didn’t play very well.” No doubt his donations kept him in good stead. Cochran wasn’t informed how much von Braunhut contributed but said Butler called upon him often.

Al Davis of Larami Limited, which held the Sea Monkeys license in 1988, stated he called von Braunhut after receiving calls from retailers and distributors worried that profits were funding racist groups. “When I called Harold on this,” Davis said, “he said something to me I find hard to believe to this day. ‘Al,’ he said, ‘Hitler wasn’t a bad guy. He just received bad press.'”

News clippings show von Braunhut attended the annual Aryan Nations Congress held in Idaho, until at least 1995. He was often a featured speaker and was sometimes given the honor of lighting the ceremonial cross. In December 1995, von Braunhut, who claimed to be an ordained priest and often wore a clerical collar to Aryan Nations meetings, presided over the funeral of Betty Butler, the chief’s wife. Although he denied writing or distributing them, the return address for National Anti-Zionist Institute (NAZI) newsletters was the same P.O. box used to receive orders for Sea-Monkey kits.

Von Braunhut died in 2003 at the age of 77. His Sea-Monkeys remain a multimillion-dollar brand and have attracted headlines again. On April 15, 2016, the New York Times published an article about the legal battle between his widow, Yolanda Signorelli, an actress best known for her role in the 1967 bondage film Venus in Furs, and Big Time, the company to whom she licensed certain rights a few years after her husband’s death.

The contract specified that Big Time would buy the packets of critters from her in exchange for the right to package and distribute the product and supplies such as aquariums and other add-ons. There was a provision that would allow it to buy her company, including the secret formula, for a one-time fee of $5 million upfront and $5 million more to be paid in installments.

In 2013, Big Time informed Signorelli it considered its payments for the packets to be a layaway plan, concluding that it owned the Sea-Monkeys franchise. She’s suing for breach of contract while Big Time continues to profit from using the Sea-Monkeys brand name by importing knockoff brine shrimp from China.

And that, boys and girls, is the true story of how a bigot and his brine shrimp contributed to race hatred and the scourge of child labor in Asia.

The Battle over the Sea-Monkey Fortune, New York Times
Hitler and the Sea-Monkeys, Southern Poverty Law Center
The Sea Monkeys and the White Supremacist, Los Angeles Times

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

May 15 is National Slider Day

national slider dayToday is National Slider Day, created in 2015 by the marketing geniuses at White Castle. It follows NYC Burger Week from May 1-7 and falls squarely in the middle of National Hamburger Month.

There’s debate about the origin of the slider. White Castle takes credit but others say it dates to the 1940s when the U.S. Navy invented the term to describe a tiny, greasy burger that slid down easily. The version with cheese was referred to as a “slider with a lid.”

Since then, that thin strip of beef topped with onions and pickles has evolved into upscale fare. Trying to ingest a nouveau slider in one bite could present a choking hazard and result in a request that you leave the restaurant immediately.

No matter how you plan to celebrate, have a happy National Slider Day!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays