18 Fun Holidays From Around the World to Put On Your Calendar This Year
If you want to spice up your calendar for the upcoming year, look no further than the delightful holidays on this list, adapted from an episode of The List Show on YouTube.
1. Singles' Day
Singles’ Day is celebrated in China on November 11, and it’s a behemoth of a day for online sales—bigger than Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined. The story goes that the holiday originally started at Nanjing University in China as a way for students to celebrate being single; 11/11 represents four individuals. It became a cultural phenomenon, and retailers couldn’t resist getting a piece of the pie, encouraging people to treat themselves to celebrate singledom. Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba pushes sales the hardest, and they’re definitely getting results—in 2019, the company sold over $38 billion worth of goods in 24 hours. For comparison, Cyber Monday sees about $9.4 billion in sales.
2. National Catfish Day
It might sound like one of those random holidays that are invented by PR firms and calendar makers, but National Catfish Day is a real national observance in the U.S., as declared by President Ronald Reagan on June 25, 1987. But it’s not to celebrate just any catfish. In his proclamation, Reagan said, “Farm-raised catfish have come a long way from their bottom-feeding ancestors.”
3. National Sleepyhead Day
This Finnish holiday is more fun for some than others. As tradition goes, on July 27, the last person in the house still sleeping gets woken up with a bucket of water to the face. The city of Naantali goes even further, recruiting a “celebrity Sleepyhead” to throw into the sea.
4. International Tom Hanks Day
If you love Tom Hanks (and who doesn't?!), you'll definitely want to celebrate International Tom Hanks Day on the Saturday that falls closest to April 1. When a few students at Western Michigan University created this day in the early 2000s, they were really just looking for a reason to spend the day watching some Tom Hanks movies while drinking rum and Dr. Pepper (that’s a Forrest Gump reference). The day really took off when Hanks himself caught word of it and sent the students some memorabilia. The students promptly auctioned it off to benefit one of Hanks’s favorite charities, and now thousands of dollars in donations roll in every year, both online and at Tom Hanks Day parties from Los Angeles to London.
5. St. Clement's Day
Not many people celebrate this holiday, which falls on November 23, like they used to. Pope Clement the First is the patron saint of metalworkers and blacksmiths, so to kick off “Old Clem’s Night,” revelers of old would “fire the anvil”—meaning they would pack gunpowder into a hole in an anvil, then strike it with a hammer to create an explosion and send the whole thing flying into the air. Sounds super safe.
6. Ragamuffin Day
Before the Macy’s Parade took New York City by storm, Ragamuffin Day was all the rage. Celebrated on Thanksgiving, the day was marked by children dressing up in rags and wandering through the street to ask adults, “Anything for Thanksgiving?” The reward was typically candy, apples, and pennies. The holiday died out for a couple of reasons, from the popularity of the Macy’s Parade to society frowning on the practice.
7. Von Steuben day
This holiday commemorates Baron Friedrich Von Steuben, a Prussian military leader who helped George Washington turn his rag-tag volunteer army in need of a shower into disciplined soldiers. Some cities still commemorate his contributions in mid-September, with Oktoberfest-style beer tents and parades. Fun fact: The parade in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was actually Chicago’s Von Steuben Day parade.
8. The Eighth
Here’s another American History throwback: a holiday called The Eighth, occurring, appropriately enough, on January 8. It was a holiday commemorating the American victory against the British in the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812. According to some historians, up until the Civil War, The Eighth was celebrated with almost as much enthusiasm as the Fourth of July.
9. Noche de Rabanos
Carving pumpkins? Child’s play. Carving radishes? Now that takes talent. On December 23, residents of Oaxaca, Mexico, celebrate Noche de Rabanos, or Night of the Radishes. People there have been sculpting oversized radishes since the 1800s, when merchants created the carvings to attract shoppers to their market stalls. Today, more than 100 people contribute intricate radish art to the festivities every year.
10. Bonza Bottler Day
Sometimes you need to celebrate the little things, which is exactly what Bonza Bottler Day does. It occurs monthly, when the number of the month matches the number of the day: January 1, February 2, March 3, and so on. Bodacious Bonza Bottler Day happens when the year also matches—December 12, 2012, for example. The idea was hatched by Elaine Fremont in 1985, and named by an Australian student: Bonza is Australian slang for "super," while bottler is slang for “something excellent.”
11. Devil’s Spit Day
This holiday, also known as Michaelmas, is said to be the day when the Archangel Michael defeated the angel Lucifer. According to one tradition, the fallen angel (literally) plummeted from heaven and hit the floor of Hell, landing in a patch of thorny blackberry bushes. Injured and angry, he spat on the berries and cursed the fruit. There’s also a version that says he peed on the bushes. Either way, now you know why blackberries are out of season in the fall.
12. Galactic Tick Day
As far as holidays go, Galactic Tick Day is a relatively new addition ... even though the reason for it is as old as the universe. You probably know that the Earth revolves around the sun in about 365 days, but what you might not realize is that the solar system itself—including the sun—revolves around the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. In 2016, a group of scientists decided that this was a trip worth celebrating, too. Unfortunately, this solar system-wide revolution takes about 225 million years to complete, which would severely limit the festivities. So they decided to celebrate the Galactic Tick instead, a period of time equal to roughly eight ten millionths of a percent of those 225 million years, or one centi-arc second.
What's a centi-arc second? The sun travels around the center of the galaxy in an approximate circle, which is 360 degrees. Each degree can be divided up into 60 equal pieces, called arc minutes. Each arc minute can, in turn, be divided into 60 arc seconds. Because of the massive timescale involved in the solar system’s loop, even an arc second takes over 170 years to complete. So the creators of Galactic Tick Day took it a step further and divided each arc second by 100—a centi-arc second, which they call a “tick,” like the ticking hand of a clock. This “tick” takes roughly 633.7 days to happen. The holiday’s founders chose to retroactively “start” the clock on October 2, 1608, the day when Hans Lippershey filed the patent for his telescope. All of that means the next galactic tick day is December 15, 2021.
13. Christmas in August
You’ve heard of Christmas in July traditions before, no doubt, but Christmas in August at Yellowstone National Park is a little different. Back around the 1930s, employees at Yellowstone held Christmas festivities in the summer. There are different explanations offered for this tradition, but it probably had something to do with the fact that many of the workers were seasonal employees hired for peak tourism, and wouldn’t be around come December. The park has carried on the tradition over the decades, with employees and guests alike trimming trees, caroling and visiting with St. Nick himself—all on August 25.
14. White Day
White Day on March 14 is celebrated in Japan, and has spread to other East Asian countries. But to fully understand this holiday, we have to back up a month, to Valentine's Day, when it's traditional for East Asian women to give men chocolates. Significant others receive expensive chocolates, and coworkers, bosses, and relatives get cheaper treats. Sadly, it was a one-way street: Women didn’t receive anything in return—until 1978, when a Japanese confectionery reasoned, rightly so, that women deserved gifts too. The holiday was originally deemed “Marshmallow Day,” with men encouraged to gift the fluffy stuff. Eventually it was expanded to refer to any white gift, even those that simply came with white packaging. It’s no Valentine’s Day in terms of sales, but White Day still rakes in around $500 million for retailers every year.
15. World Emoji Day
This holiday, which falls on July 17, has only been around since 2014, but it’s enough of a thing that the Empire State Building was lit up emoji-yellow to celebrate the day in 2017. Other Emoji Day celebrations have included Apple announcing new additions to their already-robust emoji lineup, and folks around the world attempting to set the World Record for most people dressed as emoji.
16. Bean Throwing Day
This holiday, more properly known as Setsubun, is observed on February 3 in Japan. It’s part of ushering in spring and getting rid of bad spirits—and to do so, revelers pelt a senior member of their family with roasted soybeans. A senior male member of the family will sometimes dress up as a demon to make the meaning behind the ritual more tangible. The beans are said to bring good luck and drive out evil. On a larger scale, Setsubun has become a very commercial affair, including sponsored, televised events complete with appearances by celebrity sumo wrestlers.
17. Monkey Buffet
If you visit Lopburi, Thailand, on the last Sunday in November, prepare to do a lot of monkeying around: That’s when Lopburi celebrates the Monkey Buffet to honor the thousands of macaques that live in the area and are thought to bring good luck. Locals prepare artful pyramids of watermelon, durian, pineapple, and more for the monkeys to enjoy—up to two tons' worth! Fun fact: According to a 2007 report in the American Journal of Primatology, “Long-tailed macaques in Lopburi, Thailand, use human hair as if it were dental floss.”
The German version of Father’s Day, Vatertag or Männertag (Man’s Day), isn’t odd in theory—after all, dads deserve their due. But instead of going out to eat at a terrible chain restaurant and giving their dads something that will disappear into the closet for all eternity, Germans celebrate by giving them a day out. Männertag could include a pub tour, a group bike ride accompanied by a beer wagon, or a raucous day in a beer hall. All way better than another tie, for sure.