strange, bizarre and kooky holidays in October

October 27 is Sylvia Plath Day

Is it possible to wish someone a Happy Sylvia Plath Day? How can anyone celebrate the birthday of a woman who killed herself? Is this a joke? Is it sponsored by some brand of oven cleaner? We found evidence that this holiday exists:

From the Sylvia Plath Forum:

To all avowed Sylvia Plath supporters and admirers:

I am with the Sylvia Plath day organizing committee. Let me explain: over 1,000 people signed a petition just recently in the city of Northampton, Ma to have a Sylvia Plath Day. The Mayor, consumed by the irresistible force of Plath petition signers/supporters then declared October 27, 2001 Sylvia Plath Day. As you know, Sylvia Plath attended Smith College in Northampton. We are planning a big celebration of the life and legacy of Sylvia Plath on October 27 of this year. We can use your help!

Michael
Northampton, Ma, USA
Friday, April 27, 2001

Unfortunately, we could find no Northampton public records to confirm the mayor was indeed “consumed by the irresistible force.” But if we still pore over her work and the minutia of her life over fifty years after her death, does it matter if it’s official or not?

sylvia plath day

Published under a pseudonym

Of course, we remember Sylvia Plath because she wrote The Bell Jar, required reading for many in high school. And, like it or not, we remember her because she committed suicide. We study her poetry and prose, trying to divine what fueled her despair, what caused her to take her own life. Plath wrote this in her journal a few months before her death:

I feel outcast on a cold star, unable to feel anything but an awful helpless numbness. I look down into the warm, earthy world. Into a nest of lovers’ beds, baby cribs, meal tables, all the solid commerce of life in this earth, and feel apart, enclosed in a wall of glass.

Plath wrote poetry in a confessional style, revealing intimate details about herself. She was driven, publishing her first poem when she was eight. She was the first poet awarded a posthumous Pulitzer Prize. She also wrote fifty short stories and one novel, The Bell Jar.

In February of 1963, her depression overcame her. For weeks, her doctor had tried to secure a bed for her in a psychiatric hospital. She sealed her children in their room upstairs, then sealed herself in the kitchen, put her head in the oven and turned on the gas. She was thirty years old.

On Sylvia Plath Day, instead of fetishizing her death or lamenting the loss of all she might have written, we can celebrate her life by learning about her, reading her work and being happy for what she shared with us in her short yet brilliant life.

It’s a day we should also acknowledge the brutal power of mental illness to damage and destroy lives.

Learn more at:
Neurotic Poets
BenGuinter.com
This Day in History
Sylvia Plath and the Mythology of Women Readers: 2011, Univ. of Massachusetts Press

If you are thinking about suicide, read this first.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website and toll-free telephone number: 1 (800) 273-8255

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

October 26 is Mule Appreciation Day

mule appreciation dayAccording to numerous sources on the Internet:

President Ronald Reagan signed a bill in 1985, designating October 26th as Mule Appreciation Day. Two hundred years before on this date, a ship docked in Boston, bearing the gift of a donkey from King Charles III of Spain to President George Washington.

We went a little crazy researching this holiday, delving into government records and scrutinizing proposed bills and signed laws. We can report that the bill did exist:

S.J.RES.39
Latest Title:
A joint resolution to designate October 26, 1985, as “Mule Appreciation Day”.
Sponsor: Sen Gore, Albert, Jr. [TN] (introduced 2/5/1985)
Related Bills: H.J.RES.76

Yes, that’s right. Al Gore, senator from Tennessee, submitted this bill. (An identical bill was proffered by Representative Jim Cooper, also of Tennessee.) Both have this notation:

Latest Major Action: Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Judiciary.

We can find no confirmation that Reagan did indeed sign the bill into law. So that part of the story surrounding Mule Appreciation Day is probably bunk. But the actual story is still fascinating.

George Washington wasn’t just our first president; he was also an avid mule breeder and wanted Andalusian donkeys (known as jacks) to mate with his mares. But Spain forbade their export. In 1785, when word of Washington’s wish reached King Charles III, he dispatched a ship carrying two of the prized animals.

Only one of the jacks, dubbed Royal Gift, survived the sea voyage. Most accounts omit this detail and report the shipping of only one,  perhaps because it is a sad footnote to the story.

In 1786, the Marquis de Lafayette sent Washington a jack and two mares (jennies) from a famous breed in Malta. These three historical figures influenced the breeding of mules forever.

Of course, Washington wasn’t the only person breeding mules. The Andalusian and Maltese breeds, along with the Catalonian, Majorcan, and Poitou, were incorporated over time into the development of today’s American Mammoth jack.  According to the North American Saddle Mule Association (NASMA):

There are no longer any real populations of true donkey breeds in the United States. The registries are bound by size, not breed type….The tall, slender black jack may be used for saddle mules, and the heavy-boned, drafty dappled red roan used for draft mules.

Some say a mule is more intelligent than either parent. While that’s debatable, renowned veterinarian Robert M. Miller, a mule breeder, says the hybridization “accounts for his amazing strength and stamina.”  A mule exhibits the best qualities of both parents.

A mule is generally sturdier than a horse, with stronger feet less likely to need shoeing, and will often live and work longer. His legendary sure-footedness and stability make him the animal of choice for those who pack or hike on steep mountain trails.

Because a mule inherits a strong sense of self-preservation from the donkey side of the family, he reacts differently to perceived threats. Miller states that when frightened, a horse will usually panic and flee blindly, often hurting himself in the process. “A frightened mule, on the other hand, will usually assess the situation, and avoid injuring himself,” according to Miller.

Maybe that’s what makes mules the preferred mode of transport on the precipitous trails that descend to the floor of the Grand Canyon. Legend has it that Brighty (a burro) accompanied President Theodore Roosevelt there when he hunted mountain lions.

That last part is a dodgy bit of Internet lore. Brighty (short for Bright Angel) did live in the canyon from about 1892 to 1922 and inspired a book and a movie. Roosevelt visited in 1903. Whether they came in contact with each other is a question for the ages.

We know this much is true: Visitors who ride all the way down to Phantom Ranch can send postcards from the bottom that say Mailed by Mule from the Bottom of the Grand Canyon. 

Mules have played a significant role in our country’s history and deserve to be appreciated year-round. So the next time we see a mule, we’re going to pay him some respect. After all, he might just be looking back at us, thinking we’re jackasses.

Happy Mule Appreciation Day!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

October 24 is World Tripe Day

World Trip Day Tripe Clubworld tripe day 2015If dedication and effort are any indication, the holiday known as World Tripe Day is as real as it gets. Since 2012, the Tripe Marketing Board (TMB) has campaigned tirelessly to raise awareness of the hidden virtues of consuming, or at least discussing, the stomachs of ruminant mammals.

The TMB was set up in 1992 to replace the Tripe Council which in turn traced its lineage back to 1926, when the Association for the Legal Disposal of Unwanted Cow Products began a concerted effort to market tripe.

world tripe day marketing-boardVisitors to TMB’s website will find everything tripe from recipes to job opportunities. Chairman Sir Norman Wrassle oversees the site as well as its book publishing and merchandising arms. It’s entirely likely that Sir Wrassle does not exist, but the site is so entertaining, we’re willing to suspend disbelief.

Here are some answers to everyone’s burning questions about tripe:

Does tripe taste as good as it looks?
Yes.

Is tripe kosher?
It depends on the religion of the cow.

Is tripe safe to eat?
That depends. Tripe has to be cleaned meticulously before it is fit for human consumption.

Where is my nearest tripe retailer?
It depends where you live. Visit Tripe Adviser for your local stockist.

Can I buy a CHOOSE TRIPE t-shirt?
Yes. Literally dozens of people already have.

Is the Tripe Marketing Board publishing a 2016 Diary?
Yes – and it’s more than just a diary. It’s chock full of dates and fascinating tripe facts, articles on tripe and lots, lots more.  It’s on Amazon.

Is the Tripe Marketing Board on Twitter?
Of course.  We’re @TripeUK.

When is Tripe Tuesday?
The first Tuesday in December.

Bon appetit!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

October 23 is National Mole Day

National Mole Day is not a time to pay tribute to cute furry diggers, secret agents, Mexican sauces, freckles or skin tags. (By the way, you really ought to have that thing checked out.)national mole day

Once a year on October 23 from 6:02 a.m. to 6:02 p.m., National Mole Day celebrates Avogadro’s Number (6.02 x 1023), a unit of measurement in chemistry. Mole Day originated in an article from The Science Teacher in the early 1980s. Inspired by the article, a chemistry teacher in Wisconsin created the National Mole Day Foundation on May 15, 1991.

In 1811, Lorenzo Romano Amedeo Carlo Avogadro di Quaregna e di Cerreto—Amadeo Carlo Avogadro to his parents—proposed a law stating that equal volume of all gasses, at the same temperature and pressure, have the same number of molecules.

Avogadro contradicted better-known scientists of his time, didn’t publish his work in highly regarded journals and hailed from Italy, which had fallen out of favor as a site of scientific innovation. It took almost a hundred years for the scientific community to catch on. Chemist and Nobel laureate Jean Baptiste Perrin proposed in 1909 that the total number of particles contained in one mole be called the Avogadro Constant.

6.02×10^23

One mole is a mass (in grams) whose number is equal to the molar mass of the molecule. Because atoms are so small, they can only be measured in enormous numbers, on the scale of Avogadro’s number.

1 Mole = ∼ 602,200,000,000,000,000,000,000

It ‘s hard to imagine such a large number. Oklahoma State University has some useful analogies to help envision it:

  • Astronomers estimate that there is a mole (6.02 x 1023) of stars in the universe.
  • Water flows over Niagara Falls at about 650,000 kL (172,500,000 gallons) per minute. It would take 134,000 years for one mole of water drops to flow over Niagara Falls.
  • One mole of marbles, each 2 cm in diameter, would form a mountain 116 times higher than Mount Everest. The base of the marble mountain would be slightly larger than the area of the USA.

National Mole Day has always been about fostering interest in chemistry. It has been celebrated by teachers, students and schools for decades and inspires participants to create activities, thought experiments and even music videos to make learning about Avogadro’s Number fun.

Avogadro would be so proud!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays