La Tomatina

la tomatinaToday is La Tomatina, a legendary festival held on the last Wednesday of August in the Spanish town of Buñol.

Thousands come from around the world to participate in what is billed as the World’s Biggest Food Fight.

The tradition is only 72 years old, relatively new in European terms, but no one can seem to agree about how it got its start.

Some say two boys picked a fight during a parade and began hurling tomatoes from a nearby vegetable stand at each other, inspiring others to join in.

Others maintain it was a practical joke played on a bad musician or a spontaneous act after a cart spilled tomatoes onto the street.

Many townsfolk claim it originated when residents expressed their displeasure with local government by pelting councilmen with tomatoes.

At some point, the practice came to the attention of dictator Francisco Franco, who banned it because of its lack of religious significance. By all accounts, it didn’t put a stop to the fun. After his death in 1975, the celebration came out of the shadows and began to attract revelers from near and far.

In 2002, La Tomatina was declared an official festival in 2002 by the Spanish Department of Tourism. By 2012, an estimated 50,000 people descended upon the town of 9,000. Since then, the town has instituted an official ticketing system, charging $12 each and limiting the total admission to 20,000. Tickets sell quickly and lodgings in Buñol and nearby Valencia fill up well in advance.

At around 11 am, several dump trucks haul approximately 150,000 tomatoes into Plaza del Pueblo, the center of town. According to tradition, someone must climb the Palojabón (“hamstick”), a two-story high greased wooden pole, and retrieve the ham perched on top before the festival can begin. It’s a time-consuming contest and, more often than not, no one reaches the ham. So it is also traditional that, after fueling impatience and heightening anticipation, the food fight starts anyway.

Water cannon fire signals the beginning. The only rules of battle are that tomatoes must be squished before throwing to avoid injury and tomatoes are the only weapons allowed. Before long, thousands are drenched in juice and covered in pulp, gleefully lobbing tomatoes at everyone in sight.

Exactly one hour later the fighting is stopped and no more tomatoes can be thrown. Fire trucks spray the streets with water from a Roman aqueduct. The acid from the tomatoes scours surfaces, leaving them cleaner than they had been an hour before. Shop owners take down the plastic covers they used to shield their businesses. Some people walk to the Buñol River to clean themselves up. Everyone starts planning for next year.

Feliz La Tomatina!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

August 11 is Presidential Joke Day

presidential joke dayToday is Presidential Joke Day. On August 11, 1984, while preparing to give a weekly radio address from his ranch in California, Ronald Reagan was asked to do a routine sound check.

Although the president enjoyed telling jokes about Russia, on that morning his remark was meant only for the sound engineers getting ready for the National Public Radio broadcast. Instead of counting “one, two, three” and so on, the president said:

My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation which will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.

The comment was captured on tape and leaked to the media, then the world. NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw reported that on August 15, 1984, a coded message sent from Soviet headquarters placed troops on wartime alert, stating, “We now embark on military action against the U.S. forces.”

The alert was withdrawn 30 minutes later, after ships in the North Pacific contacted headquarters to question their orders. The official word from the Kremlin claimed that someone in the Far Eastern Command had declared a state of war without authorization.

Some U.S. officials believed the Soviet government had sanctioned the action to retaliate against Reagan’s offensive words. Others thought it was a joke. One speculated the culprit had been drunk. We’ll never know because the guilty party was never revealed.

Setting aside its questionable humor value, we must conclude that Ronald Reagan’s joke is the most powerful ever told because the hard feelings it engendered could have caused a nuclear war.

Hear the quip here. Have a happy Presidential Joke Day and remember: Always, always, always assume the mic is live and don’t say anything you wouldn’t want to hear on the six o’clock news!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays


August 1 is World Middle Finger Day

World Middle Finger Day logoToday is World Middle Finger Day, created in 2012 by Charles Greene to encourage everyone to exercise their right to peaceful protest with a universal gesture of defiance.

He chose August 1st because it falls between July 4th and September 11, two dates that inspire nationalistic fervor. World Middle Finger Day acknowledges the value of dissent.

Greene posted an official anthem, starring adorable puppets, on YouTube. Be warned: it isn’t family-friendly. Your child’s preschool teacher will never believe he learned that rude gesture from a puppet.

Here’s a sample of the lyrics:

Don’t just stand there blubberin’, feeling sad and blue.
C’mon, pull yourself together, ’cause there’s something you can do:

Give them the finger, give them the finger, the middle one on either of your fists.
Give them the finger, give them the finger, and do it with a flippin’ of the wrist.

Though you’ll never be forgiven, it’s the finger that you’re giving ’em,
But life’s worth living after all—

Give them the finger, give them the finger:
Feeling good, feeling better, walking tall!

Happy World Middle Finger Day!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

June 19 is World Sauntering Day

world sauntering day

Grand Hotel porch: made for rockin’ and strollin’

Today is World Sauntering Day, also known as International Sauntering Day.

The first official saunter reportedly took place at Michigan’s Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. Participants strolled across the 660-foot porch, which the hotel claims is the longest in existence.

W.T. Rabe invented the holiday in 1979 in response to what he saw as an alarming rise in the popularity of jogging.

He saw World Sauntering Day as a way to counteract the tendency to rush through life, to remind people to slow down and enjoy themselves.

“You don’t care where you’re going, how you’re going or how long it takes to get there,” Rabe explained. “The idea is to smell the roses and to pay attention to the world around you.”

That wasn’t Rabe’s first contribution to the world of wacky holidays. In 1976, as public relations director for Lake Superior State University (LSSU), he created the Banished Words List. (Its full name is List of Words Banished from the Queen’s English for Mis-Use, Over-Use or General Uselessness.) The college receives nominations for banishment from around the world, covering all manner of words and phrases worthy of exile.

W.T. Rabe passed away in 1992. We wonder if he had any idea just how prescient his tongue-in-cheek creation was; how much we would all need to pause, look up from our screens, forget the to-do list and amble, mosey and sashay through our day.

Happy World Sauntering Day!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays