weird and wacky holidays happening in November

November 2 is Plan Your Epitaph Day

Depending on how you view it, a tombstone is your last chance to say goodbye, crack a joke, be profound or otherwise make cemetery visitors imagine you were cool and wish they’d known you before they move on to visit their Nana’s weed-covered grave.

Plan Your Epitaph Day was created by Lance Hardie in 1995 to coincide with Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos), a Mexican holiday that honors the souls of departed loved ones. Hardie’s goal is simple: to make sure that we take control of our epitaphs, those few all-important words that will tell those who see them what we’d like them to think about who we used to be.

Playing with the idea of death is encouraged at this time of year. We dress up for Halloween and laugh, perhaps a bit timorously, at shadows. It’s also a time for reflection and mental housekeeping, as we’ve seen with holidays recently profiled here: such as Create a Great Funeral Day, Visit a Cemetery Day, even National Magic Day with its tribute to the death of Harry Houdini.

Let’s take a look at a couple of epitaphs quoted by Hardie.

W.C. Fields

Sadly we must begin by debunking a favorite of ours: W.C. Fields did not have this on his gravestone:

“Here lies W. C. Fields. I would rather be living in Philadelphia.”

Fields was no fan of  Philadelphia, famously calling it “a cemetery with lights.” When he was invited to contribute his own epitaph for the June 1925 issue of Vanity Fair, it was no surprise that Philly rated a mention. Since then, different permutations of the pithy comment coalesced into a myth regarding his gravestone.

Sadly, Fields didn’t use his headstone to take one last jab for posterity. (Perhaps he worried the joke would not stay fresh through the ages or didn’t care since he wouldn’t be around to witness it?) Instead, it reads “W.C. Fields 1880 – 1946”.

plan your epitaph day wc fields

William Shakespeare

Hardie also cites Shakespeare’s epitaph. This one does exist in Collegiate Church of the Holy Trinity in Stratford-Upon-Avon, England. The gravestone is badly eroded and reads:

plan your epitaph day







Shakespeare didn’t leave a spooky epitaph to be studied and interpreted in perpetuity. He left instructions. In his day, it was accepted practice to dig up bones from the church’s graveyard and tombs, moving them to make room for more burials. They were placed in a charnel house and subsequently burned.

(Some claim this was called the “bonefire of the vanities.” Although that would be a heck of an origin story for the title of Tom Wolfe’s book, we could find no proof of it.)

Shakespeare knew and disdained Holy Trinity’s practice of recycling graves. He may have also meant to dissuade the government from moving his bones to Westminster Abbey. Thus far, his wishes have been honored.

What Now?

If the thought of penning your life’s final caption fills you with existential dread, Mr. Hardie is here to help. He will write it for you but won’t tell you how much it will cost you, just that it will be expensive.

He does make a couple of exceptions. If you are a death row inmate or a member of the U.S. military about to report to a war zone, he will write your epitaph for free. (You will need to provide proof of your orders, of course. Presumably, if you’re on death row, he can Google you.)

Let us take a moment to point out that many who die in prison have no means to pay for their funerals and end up in a prison graveyard like Captain Joe Byrd Cemetery in Texas, the largest in the country.

They lie beneath markers that bear only name, inmate number and date of death.  Notorious killers are routinely identified by inmate number alone, to discourage visitation and vandalism. Not much need for epitaphs there, free or otherwise.

But enough of that. Let’s get back the fun stuff. Far be it from us to bring down the mood of such a happy occasion like planning our last words with some factual bummers. You’ll find funny epitaphs aplenty at MTWorld.

Here at Worldwide Weird Holidays, we like to imagine the impact this would have in any cemetery at dusk:

plan your epitaph day tombstone

 Feel free to use it: no charge. It’s our gift to you.

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

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November 1 is National Author’s Day

National Authors' DayToday is National Author’s Day. In 1928, teacher Nellie Verne Burt McPherson suggested the creation of a holiday dedicated to American authors at a meeting of the Bement Illinois Women’s Club.

McPherson was inspired by an experience she’d had more than a decade earlier while lying in a hospital recuperating from an illness. She’d written a fan letter to Irving Bacheller after reading his story, Eben Holden’s Last Day A’Fishin.

She was thrilled when the author responded by sending her an autographed copy of another one of his stories. She remembered his kindness when she pioneered the observance.

As president of the club, she submitted her idea to the General Federation of Women’s Club. It was celebrated unofficially for many years. In 1949, the United States Department of Commerce made it an official holiday, but it remained largely unknown for almost 20 years.

After McPherson’s death in 1968, her granddaughter Sue Cole began to promote the celebration of National Author’s Day. She urged readers to write to American authors to “brighten up the sometimes lonely business of being a writer.” Other ways to celebrate include re-reading a classic, picking up a current title or writing reviews for your favorite books and authors on Goodreads or Amazon.  

Happy National Author’s Day!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

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Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting

The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting has become a worldwide symbol of the holiday season. The tree is lit on the Wednesday after Thanksgiving, celebrated with live musical performances at Rockefeller Plaza and broadcast around the globe on television and the internet.

What’s the truth behind the legend? Worldwide Weird Holidays investigates.

Tree Story

Oneonta, New York, lost a longtime resident on December 10, 2016: a 14-ton, 94-foot-tall Norway Spruce we’ll call Bruce. (They’re all named Bruce.) He’d called the town home for nearly a century when the Eichler family contacted Rockefeller Center’s head gardener and chief Christmas tree hunter, Erik Pauzé. He visited, liked what he saw and Bruce’s fate was decided.

“We’ll miss the shade but for the most part we’re happy to gain the space back because it did monopolize the entire yard,” Craig Eichler said.

On Thursday, Bruce was cut down and loaded with the help of two hydraulic cranes onto a custom-made telescoping trailer that can stretch to 100 feet and accommodate a tree up to 125 feet tall, although the width of New York City streets limits the height to 110 feet.

Bruce was then bound like Gulliver and driven 140 miles to New York City on a route carefully plotted by a committee of local and city planners, under the watchful eye of a police escort.

At his final destination, the same cranes were used to fix Bruce into place by skewering his trunk onto a steel spike. A team of thirty giant-tree specialists attached guy wires to his midsection to hold him upright, then erected scaffolding to assist the workers who would later festoon him with 50,000 lights strung on more than five miles of electrical wire. Since 2007, the tree has been “green” (evergreen?), using LED lights and drawing part of its power from a 365-panel solar array installed on the roof.

The StarRockefeller center christmas tree lighting star

Bruce will have a fabulous, if hefty, headpiece. In 2004, the old fiberglass star decorated with gold leaf was replaced by the Swarovski Star, designed by German artist Michael Hammers. It weighs 550 pounds, is 9.5 feet in diameter and sports 25,000 crystals with a million facets. In 2009, Hammers decided to upgrade the star’s lighting system by adding 720 tiny white LEDs and 3,000 feet of wire to the star’s interior, which were then connected to 44 circuit boards.

That’s a lot of look.


Although the official Christmas tree tradition began in 1933, the year 30 Rockefeller Plaza opened, the practice began during its Depression-era construction, when workers decorated a twenty-foot-high balsam fir tree with “strings of cranberries, garlands of paper, and even a few tin cans” on Christmas Eve of 1931, according to Daniel Okrent’s Great Fortune: The Epic of Rockefeller Center

rockefeller center christmas tree lighting history

In the above photo, construction workers receive their paychecks next to the Christmas tree they’d set up on the Rockefeller Center site. Pauzé estimates from the number of tree rings that Bruce is approximately 95 years old, so he was likely a sapling in 1931.

Visiting Hours

If you’d like to see Bruce get lit up like a, well, you know, make your way to Rockefeller Plaza between West 48th and 51st Streets and Fifth and Sixth Avenues before 9 pm. Expect a lot of company, many security restrictions and possible rain.

But you won’t be allowed to bring umbrellas, backpacks or large bags, according to the New York City Police Department. The streets surrounding Rockefeller Center will be closed from 3 pm until after the ceremony.  Highly armed officers will patrol the area—only as a precaution, of course.

visual approximation of Bruce

Bruce will be lit until midnight tonight, then from 5:30 am until midnight daily; he is expected to receive up to 750,000 visitors per day. On January 7, 2017, his lights will be doused forever at 8 pm and the process of removing him from his final perch will begin.

His remains will be donated to Habitats for Humanity. Those who benefit will never know how famous their house’s sturdy timber once was. I’d like to think that’s how Bruce would have wanted it.

Happy holidays!

Copyright 2016 Worldwide Weird Holidays

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November 29 is Square Dance Day

Today is Square Dance Day. Some of us remember awkward co-ed square dance lessons in the high school gym. Or maybe we watched a group do-si-do on a parade float down Main Street. How can we keep the memory alive of an American folk dance and its European roots? We’re glad you asked.

Square Dance Day
In 17th-century England, teams of six–all men, for propriety’s sake–began performing what was called the morris dance. The fad inspired a country dance in which couples lined up on village greens to practice weaving, circling and swinging moves reminiscent of modern-day square dancing.

French couples in the 18th century squared off for dances such as the cotillion and quadrille. Folk dances in Scotland, Scandinavia and Spain are also thought to have influenced square dancing.

Europeans brought these dances with them when they settled the North American colonies. French styles became popular after the American Revolutionary War when many newly-minted citizens disdained British traditions. Several square dancing terms have their origins in the French language, including “promenade,” “allemande” and “do-si-do”—a corruption of “dos-à-dos,” meaning “back-to-back.”

square dance day
A similar style called the “running set” caught on in 19th-century Appalachia. At first, participants memorized all the steps but soon the dances became so complicated that it became necessary to have someone call out cues.  This caller’s original function was to call out the steps in time to fiddle music, so dancers wouldn’t have to memorize them all.

As square dance calling became an art form in its own right, the best ones invented lines to say between cues such as “Don’t be bashful and don’t be afraid. Swing on the corner in a waltz promenade.” A caller might also come up with new dance steps and routines.

Waltzes and polkas, which allowed couples to get closer to each other without raising too many eyebrows, supplanted group-based dances by the late 19th century. As the jazz and swing eras dawned, square dancing came to seem even more outdated.

In the 1920s, automaker Henry Ford decided to revive the tradition as a form of exercise and, more important, as instruction in proper manners with the opposite sex. He paid for the development of a national program, opened ballrooms, made attendance mandatory for his factory workers, and produced instructive radio broadcasts for schools throughout the country.

Lloyd Shaw, a folk dance teacher in the 1930s, wrote books about the rescued art of square dancing and held seminars for a new generation of callers. In the 1950s, standards were developed for square dancing across the United States, allowing dancers to learn interchangeable routines and patterns.

Square Dance Day

Recordings made the square dance more accessible since a trained caller no longer had to be physically present. Anyone in the country could dance to Ernest Legg of West Virginia’s calling on 78:

Ladies do and the gents you know,
It’s right by right by wrong you go,
And you can’t go to heaven while you carry on so,
And it’s home little gal and do-si-do,
And it may be the last time, I don’t know,
And oh by gosh and oh by Joe.

Square dancing continues to thrive in some areas although its overall popularity has waned in recent decades, according to the United Square Dancers of America. Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennesse and Virginia have all seen fit to make the square dance their ‘folk dance’ State Symbol.

Want to know more? Let Bugs Bunny call the tune:

Happy Square Dance Day!

Sources: – Square Dancing: A Swinging History
Appalachian History –  And it’s home little gal and do-si-do

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays