30 Things Turning 30 in 2017

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If you were born in 1987, you're in good company! Here's our annual list celebrating 30 things (products, companies, TV shows, books, heck—even people!) turning 30 this year.

1. CHERRY GARCIA


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Ben & Jerry's introduced the flavor Cherry Garcia on February 15, 1987. Honoring the Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia, the flavor was originally suggested by Jane Williamson, a fan. She had contacted the company several times with the idea, and her suggestion turned into a hit. The company thanked her with a year's supply of Ben & Jerry's.

2. THE PRINCESS BRIDE

The Princess Bride

hit theaters on September 25, 1987, and became an instant classic. Featuring the Cliffs of Insanity, the Pit of Despair, and Rodents of Unusual Size, the film struck a chord with lovers of adventure, romance, and fantasy. It also gave us a terrific revenge tale, as Mandy Patinkin's character says: "Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."

If you're a super-fan, there's an entire website devoted to the movie. (We have our own facts about the movie here). They also sell "tweasure." And if you haven't read it, William Goldman's original book—published way back in 1973—is inconceivably good.

3. THE LEGEND OF ZELDA (IN THE U.S.)

As with many Nintendo games, The Legend of Zelda has multiple birthdays. It was first released in Japan in 1986, but had its U.S. debut on August 22, 1987 in a signature gold-colored cartridge including a special battery pack to keep saved game data. Meanwhile, Japanese players had been enjoying Zelda II: The Adventure of Link since January 14, 1987.

In the three decades since Zelda reached America, more than a dozen sequels have emerged. It remains one of Nintendo's most popular franchises. The latest installment, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, is slated for release this year.

4. PANERA BREAD

In 1987, the first St. Louis Break Company opened in Kirkwood, Missouri. It would go on to expand to several more locations before attracting the attention of Au Bon Pain, which was trying to enter the suburban market. By the late '90s, the chain was renamed to its current Panera Bread. The name "Panera" is derived from the Latin for, effectively, "breadbasket." The chain features soups, salads, and sandwiches in addition to typical bakery fare.

The company now has over 2000 locations, and in the mid-2000s gained fame for its free Wi-Fi. These days, your free Wi-Fi time may be capped at 30 minutes.

5. U2'S THE JOSHUA TREE

On March 9, 1987, U2 released their epic album The Joshua Tree, featuring smash hit singles "With or Without You," "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," and "Where the Streets Have No Name." The supporting tour was suitably epic, and during the tour they shot scenes for the upcoming album and film Rattle and HumThe Joshua Tree was U2's first album to reach No. 1 in the U.S.

Other big music releases in 1987 include Michael Jackson's Bad; George Michael's solo debut, Faith; The Cure's Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me; Aerosmith's Permanent Vacation; Fleetwood Mac's Tango in the Night; Def Leppard's Hysteria; and Guns N’ Roses's seminal Appetite for Destruction.

6. FULL HOUSE

The quintessential American '80s sitcom Full House premiered on September 22, 1987. It had a slightly grim premise under its wacky surface: After the death of anchorman Danny Tanner's wife, he pulls his best friend and his brother-in-law into his San Francisco home to help care for his three daughters. Fortunately, hilarity ensued, and we all learned catch phrases like Dave Coulier's "Cut—it—out," the Olsen twins' "Aw, nuts!" and Jodie Sweetin's "How rude!"

Today, the web is full of fan sites and even a podcast. Netflix launched the spinoff series Fuller House in 2016, featuring an all-grown-up Candace Cameron Bure as D.J. Tanner-Fuller. Fuller. Get it? Huh? Oh well. Watch the hair!

7. THE SIMPSONS (ON THE TRACEY ULLMAN SHOW)

Before The Simpsons had their own show, they appeared in animated shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show. The first short appeared on April 19, 1987. Entitled "Good Night," it showed Bart, Lisa, and Maggie going through their bedtime routines, inadvertently becoming terrified by their clueless parents' comments.

Looking back at the animated shorts, most of the show's DNA is already in place. Although the art is crude and some of the characters aren't full developed, the core dynamics are there—even including Itchy and Scratchy!

8. PRESIDENT REAGAN'S "TEAR DOWN THIS WALL" SPEECH

On June 12, 1987, President Ronald Reagan visited West Berlin to deliver a speech. Standing by the Brandenburg Gate, he exhorted Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to "Tear down this wall!" At the time, the Berlin Wall was just over 25 years old. It would begin to fall in late 1989. While the president's speech didn't cause the fall by itself, it sure felt like a big factor at the time. President Reagan said, in part:

There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

The speech touched on a variety of other issues as well, including President Reagan's desire to limit nuclear weapons proliferation. At one point he called for the Soviets and the U.S. to "[eliminate], for the first time, an entire class of nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth."

You can watch the entire speech courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, or check out the money quote in the YouTube clip embedded above.

9. BLACK MONDAY

Monday, October 19, 1987 was a rough day. Stock markets crashed worldwide, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 22 percent of its value in one day. In previous months, the Dow had soared more than 44 percent over the previous year's close. Starting in mid-October, the Dow was hit by a series of major losses, culminating in the crash of Black Monday (which is, incidentally, known as Black Tuesday in Australia and New Zealand, due to time zone differences).

While Black Monday brought us the biggest one-day drop in the history of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the market recovered quickly. Over half the losses were regained in just two days of trading. Then, early in 1989, the Dow surpassed its previous high. The most notable effect of the crash was the creation of tools to temporarily halt trading (seen as a hedge against computer-trading programs running amok) to reduce volatility.

10. CANADA'S LOONIE

In June 1987, Canada introduced a new $1 coin to replace paper $1 notes. The coin featured the image of a loon, and the coin quickly earned the nickname "loonie." (Over the years, various non-loon versions have been minted; the Royal Canadian Mint maintains a nice list.)

In 1996, the Canadian $2 coin debuted. Predictably, it became known as the "toonie."

11. STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION

Star Trek

fans rejoiced when Star Trek: The Next Generation aired on September 28, 1987. The original series had stopped producing episodes in 1969, though TV syndication, new movies, and fan conventions kept the series alive in the pop culture landscape.

Helmed by Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, TNG followed a later iteration of the starship Enterprise on a "continuing mission" of exploration. It was set a hundred years after the original show, and Roddenberry had some odd rules of play. He suggested that conflict among members of the crew would not exist in this new future, which led to awkward plots in the first few years of the show. (This lack of internal conflict required external forces to emerge, constantly, to create conflict.)

TNG was the background TV of many '90s kids' childhoods, as hour-long episodes ran in reruns after school. The show ran for seven seasons and produced a staggering 178 individual episodes. It still runs in syndication today, and we write about it often.

12. DIRTY DANCING

Released on August 21, 1987, Dirty Dancing was a massive hit. Featuring Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze in period drama, the movie took us all the way back to 1963. (That's a gap of 24 years. If we made a modern Dirty Dancing with the same time gap, it would be set in the good old days of 1993.) As Grey's character "Baby" unleashes her inner dancer, Swayze's "Johnny" taught America to love dancing again. Dirty Dancing won one Academy Award, for Best Original Song: "(I've Had) The Time of My Life." That song also picked up a Golden Globe and a Grammy.

Just remember: "Nobody puts Baby in a corner."

13. BABY JESSICA'S RESCUE

On October 14, 1987, 18-month-old "Baby Jessica" McClure fell down a well in her aunt's back yard. The well shaft was just 8 inches in diameter, and Baby Jessica was stuck 22 feet underground.

For the next 58 hours, TV viewers were glued to CNN TV coverage as rescuers worked to save Baby Jessica's life. They drilled a much wider hole parallel to the well, then tunneled from the larger hole to the smaller well shaft. While this went on, rescuers added oxygen to Baby Jessica's well shaft, hoping to keep her breathing. Adults spoke to her, singing songs and trying to stay in contact.

On October 16, 1987, the rescue was successful—and it was televised. Baby Jessica was safe, and she went on to live a normal life. Local news photographer Scott Shaw snapped a photo of her rescue that won a Pulitzer Prize.

14. THE MAX HEADROOM INCIDENT

On the evening of November 22, 1987, Chicago-area TV viewers saw something unexpected. A news broadcast on WGN was interrupted for just under 30 seconds by a guy wearing a Max Headroom mask. The audio didn't work, and the station successfully cut the pirate out quickly.

The TV pirate struck again that night during an episode of Dr. Who on WTTW. The show was interrupted for about 90 seconds when the faux Max Headroom cut into the signal and spoke in heavily distorted seeming non-sequiturs, ultimately showing himself being spanked by a fly swatter. The incident remains a mystery, as the perpetrator has never been identified or caught.

(For our younger readers, check out this article for an explanation of who or what Max Headroom was.)

15. PROZAC

In December 1987, the FDA approved Prozac, a prescription antidepressant known generically as Fluoxetine. The drug was a blockbuster hit, soon becoming a multibillion-dollar-a-year business for drugmaker Eli Lilly.

Prozac was also a cultural milestone, leading to a series of books about depression and medication, including Prozac Nation, Prozac Diary, and Listening to Prozac. Prozac quickly became synonymous with antidepressant drugs in general, and remains a true icon of the 1980s.

16. MARRIED... WITH CHILDREN

When Fox launched in late 1986, it went head to head with the Big Three TV companies: ABC, CBS, and NBC. Fox was looking to join that lineup, and it quickly cemented itself as a player with a series of popular shows, including The Tracey Ullman Show, 21 Jump Street, and the instant classic Married... With Children.

The show focused initially on Al Bundy (Ed O'Neill), a dimwitted women's shoe salesman with a feisty family. It launched on April 5, 1987 and ran for just over a decade, earning modest ratings for the channel as part of its Sunday night lineup (which would later be anchored by The Simpsons).

17. MICHAEL JORDAN'S 58-POINT GAME

On February 26, 1987, Michael Jordan set a Chicago record by scoring 58 points in a regular-season game. He led the Bulls to beat the Nets 128-113. He voluntarily stopped playing after setting the record, and told The New York Times:

"I knew the fans wanted me to get 60, then 63, and maybe 70. But the bottom line is, that by scoring more points I'll always have to shoot for more and more, and there's a lot more to the game."

Jordan had previously set a playoff game record in May 1986, scoring 63 points against the Celtics. His records are so numerous that Wikipedia has a long article devoted solely to his achievements.

18. LARRY BIRD'S 59-BASKET FREE THROW STREAK

Larry Bird had a habit of making free throws. In 1987, he went on a 59-basket streak from November 9 through December 4. Two years later, he went on a 71-basket streak, though even that one fell short of Calvin Murphy's 78-basket streak in 1981. (All of these records have since been broken.) But hey, it wouldn't be 1987 basketball without mildly dissing Larry Bird, right?

19. BOMBAY SAPPHIRE GIN

Although the bottle makes Bombay Sapphire look centuries old, it was first introduced in 1987. Designed to be a "luxury gin" akin to how Absolut was considered a "luxury vodka," Bombay Sapphire took the existing Bombay line and elevated it, going back to Bombay's famous 1761 recipe ... and adding a dash of new botanical ingredients.

20. ROBOCOP

Paul Verhoeven brought us his dystopian RoboCop on July 17, 1987. Featuring Peter Weller as the title character, the film shows us what happens when a private corporation takes over the Detroit Police Department ... and starts staffing it with cyborgs. What could possibly go wrong?

Fun fact: In the movie, the 1986 model Ford Taurus appears as a futuristic police cruiser—because that design was actually pretty sleek for its time! Various Ford models were also used in the sequels and reboot. "Your move, creep."

21. MACINTOSH SE

The Macintosh SE came out in on March 2, 1987, and it would set you back $2899 with two floppy drives—or $3899 with a 20 megabyte hard drive. Yikes.

Refining the design used in the original 1984 Mac and the Macintosh Plus, the SE ran at a decidedly non-blistering 8 MHz, but it could support up to 4 megabytes of RAM, and it became a common machine in computer labs across the U.S. Because it allowed for an internal hard drive and also had a built-in expansion slot, the SE was more expandable than previous Macs, which helped it hang on for more than two years.

22. CONGRESSIONAL BAN ON INFLIGHT SMOKING

On July 26, 1987, the U.S. Congress mandated a ban on inflight smoking for flights of two hours or less. The ban went into effect in 1988, and was eventually broadened. Interestingly, regulations still mandate the presence of ashtrays in airplane lavatories.

(Incidentally, starting on April 26, 1987, Air Canada started experimenting with its own smoking bans.)

23. AZT

On March 19, 1987, the FDA approved a drug called azidothymidine for treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS infection. Because the drug's name was such a mouthful, everybody called it "AZT" from the start. It was the first-ever drug approved for treating HIV/AIDS, and its approval came in record time, after only a single 19-week trial on humans.

While AZT was the first effective medication for some cases to fight HIV/AIDS, it was only the first step. Over the coming decades, scientists added medications and refined dosages, arriving at modern treatments. But in 1987, AZT was the only medical hope for patients with HIV/AIDS.

24. "THE DRIVE" (JOHN ELWAY'S BIG WIN)

On January 11, 1987, the Denver Broncos made a legendary comeback known as "The Drive." Playing against the Cleveland Browns, the Broncos were down 20-13 with 5:32 left on the clock. Quarterback John Elway took over, and led his team on a 98-yard drive in just over five minutes. That left the game tied with 0:37 on the clock, and Elway's Broncos proceeded to win the game in overtime with a field goal.

That win allowed the Broncos to advance to Super Bowl XXI, which they lost to New York Giants. But still, The Drive is what football fans look to as a textbook example of a last-minute rally.

25. WINDOWS 2.0

Microsoft released Windows 2.0 on December 9, 1987. It was a transitional operating system, bridging the gap between the (borderline unusable) Windows 1.0 and the very successful Windows 3.0.

The banner features of Windows 2 were overlapping, freely resizable windows (previously, windows had to be "tiled" and couldn't overlap). Aside from the slightly improved user interface, Microsoft Word and Excel both arrived for Windows 2.0, and it also included a slightly updated version of the game Reversi!

Apple sued Microsoft in March 1988 over the graphical user interface in Windows 2.0. Microsoft won. Apple appealed repeatedly, attempting to get the case before the Supreme Court, which declined to hear it. Tensions between Microsoft and Apple remained high until 1997, when Microsoft invested in Apple and the companies' CEOs buried the hatchet.

26. STEPHEN KING'S MISERY

On June 8, 1987, readers got a taste of the horrors of writing. In Stephen King's novel Misery, a famous writer is rescued from a car crash by a super-fan, but finds that his recuperation is not as pleasant as he'd hoped.

King mentions Misery in his 2000 book On Writing, saying that the story came to him while he slept on a 1984 flight from New York to London. When he woke up, he wrote the following fever-dream ramble on a cocktail napkin:

She speaks earnestly but never quite makes eye contact. A big woman and solid all through; she is an absence of hiatus. (Whatever that means; remember, I had just woken up.) “I wasn’t trying to be funny in a mean way when I named my pig Misery, no sir. Please don’t think that. No, I named her in the spirit of fan love, which is the purest love there is. You should be flattered.”

Upon arriving at his hotel in London, King proceeded to write more than a dozen pages of the story, longhand, on what was formerly Rudyard Kipling's desk.

Misery was made into a movie in 1990. Kathy Bates played Annie, the super-fan, and she won an Oscar for Best Actress for that performance.

27. RANDY SHILTS'S AND THE BAND PLAYED ON

Randy Shilts was a journalist for the San Francisco Chronicle. In 1987 he published the bestseller And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic, exploring the history of the HIV/AIDS crisis in America, with a focus on how leaders reacted to the crisis. Shilts himself died of complications from AIDS in 1994.

And the Band Played On has been in the news lately; the book mentions Gaetan Dugas as "Patient Zero" and describes his international travel and promiscuity as vectors for virus transmission. Shilts wrote, "Whether Gaetan Dugas actually was the person who brought AIDS to North America remains a question of debate and is ultimately unanswerable." In 2016, scientists published a study in the journal Nature proving that Dugas was not the first vector in North America.

And the Band Played On was adapted into a movie in 1993, starring Matthew Modine, Alan Alda, Ian McKellan, Glenne Headly, and a stunning list of other major stars.

28. KENDRICK LAMAR, KESHA, RONDA ROUSEY, EVAN RACHEL WOOD, ZAC EFRON ...

Plenty of actors, musicians, and athletes were born in 1987. Here are just a few:

Ronda Rousey - February 1

Ellen Page - February 21

Kesha - March 1

(Lil') Bow Wow - March 9

Mackenzie Davis - April 1

Kendrick Lamar - June 17

Lionel Messi - June 24

Blake Lively - August 25

Evan Rachel Wood - September 7

Wiz Khalifa - September 8

Tom Felton - September 22

Hilary Duff - September 28

Zac Efron - October 18

29. FINAL FANTASY

The epic Final Fantasy game franchise began on December 18, 1987, when the first version of the game was released for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Designed by Hironobu Sakaguchi, the title's adjective "final" referred to the fact that if the game didn't work out, Sakaguchi was in serious trouble. He told Famitsu:

"The name ‘Final Fantasy’ was a display of my feeling that if this didn’t sell, I was going to quit the games industry and go back to university. I’d have had to repeat a year, so I wouldn’t have had any friends—it really was a ‘final’ situation."

Although this series of events has been disputed, FF was a hit, and it has gone on to spawn endless sequels and spinoffs. (The most recent is Final Fantasy XV, released in late 2016.)

30. thirtysomething

Unless you're at least 35, you probably won't recognize the TV show thirtysomething. It was a drama launched in September 1987, featuring Baby Boomers then in their mid-thirties, struggling with adulthood and parenthood in Philadelphia.

The term "thirty-something" became part of the popular lexicon, and was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 1993. The term refers broadly to people in their 30s, but more specifically to the generation of baby boomers who hit their 30s during the 1980s.

12 Good Ol' Facts About The Dukes of Hazzard

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Getty Images

When The Dukes of Hazzard premiered on January 26, 1979, it was intended to be a temporary patch in CBS’s primetime schedule until The Incredible Hulk returned. Only nine episodes were ordered, and few executives at the network had any expectation that the series—about two amiable brothers at odds with the corrupt law enforcement of Hazzard County—would become both a ratings powerhouse and a merchandising bonanza. Check out some of these lesser-known facts about the Duke boys, their extended family, and the gravity-defying General Lee.

1. CBS's chairman hated The Dukes of Hazzard.

CBS chairman William Paley never quite bought into the idea of spinning his opinion to match the company line. Having built CBS from a radio station to one of the “Big Three” television networks, he had harvested talent as diverse as Norman Lear and Lucille Ball, a marked contrast to the Southern-fried humor of The Dukes of Hazzard. In his 80s when it became a top 10 series and seeing no reason to censor himself, Paley repeatedly and publicly described the show as “lousy.”

2. The Dukes of Hazzard's General Lee got 35,000 fan letters a month.


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While John Schneider and Tom Wopat were the ostensible stars of the show, both the actors and the show's producers quickly found out that the main attraction was the 1969 Dodge Charger—dubbed the General Lee—that trafficked brothers Bo and Luke Duke from one caper to another. Of the 60,000 letters the series was receiving every month in 1981, 35,000 wanted more information on or pictures of the car.

3. Dennis Quaid wanted to be The Dukes of Hazzard's Luke Duke—on one condition.

When the show began casting in 1978, producers threw out a wide net searching for the leads. Dennis Quaid was among those interested in the role of Luke Duke—which eventually went to Wopat—but he had a condition: he would only agree to the show if his then-wife, P.J. Soles, was cast at the Dukes’ cousin, Daisy. Soles wasn’t a proper fit for the supporting part, which put Quaid off; Catherine Bach was eventually cast as Daisy.

4. John Schneider pretended to be a redneck for his Dukes of Hazzard audition.

New York native Schneider was only 18 years old when he went in to read for the role of Bo Duke. The problem: producers wanted someone 24 to 30 years old. Schneider lied about his age and passed himself off as a Southern archetype, strutting in wearing a cowboy hat, drinking a beer, and spitting tobacco. He also told them he could do stunt driving. It was a good enough performance to land him the show.

5. The Dukes of Hazzard co-stars John Schneider and Tom Wopat met while taking a poop.

After Schneider was cast, the show needed to locate an actor who could complement Bo. Stage actor Wopat was flown in for a screen test; Schneider happened to be in the bathroom when Wopat walked in after him. The two began talking about music—Schneider had seen a guitar under the stall door—and found they had an easy camaraderie. After flushing, the two did a scene. Wopat was hired immediately.

6. Daisy's Dukes needed a tweak on The Dukes of Hazzard.

Bach’s omnipresent jean shorts were such a hit that any kind of cutoffs quickly became known as “Daisy Dukes,” after her character. But they were so skimpy that the network was concerned censors wouldn’t allow them. A negotiation began, and it was eventually decided that Bach would wear some extremely sheer pantyhose to make sure there were no clothing malfunctions.

7. Nancy Reagan was fan of The Dukes of Hazzard's Daisy.

Shirley Moore, Bach’s former grade school teacher, went on to work in the White House. After Bach sent her a poster, she was surprised to hear back that then-First Lady Nancy Reagan was enamored with it. “I’m the envy of the White House and I’m having your poster framed,” Moore wrote in a letter. “Mrs. Reagan saw the picture and fell in love with it.” Bach sent more posters, which presumably became part of the decor during the Reagan administration.

8. The Dukes of Hazzard's stars had some very bizarre contract demands.

Wopat and Schneider famously walked off the series in 1982 after demanding a cut of the show’s massive merchandising revenue—which was, by one estimate, more than $190 million in 1981 alone. They were replaced with Byron Cherry and Christopher Mayer, “cousins” of the Duke boys, who were reviled by fans for being scabs. The two leads eventually came back, but it wasn’t the only time Warner Bros. had to deal with irate actors. James Best, who portrayed crooked sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane, refused to film five episodes because he had no private dressing room in which to change his clothes; the production just hosed him down when he got dirty. Ben Jones, who played “Cooter” the mechanic, briefly left because he wanted his character to sport a beard and producers preferred he be clean-shaven.

9. A miniature car was used for some stunts in The Dukes of Hazzard.

As established, the General Lee was a primary attraction for viewers of the series. For years, the show wrecked dozens of Chargers by jumping, crashing, and otherwise abusing them, which created some terrific footage. For its seventh and final season in 1985, the show turned to a miniature effects team in an effort to save on production costs: it was cheaper to mangle a Hot Wheels-sized model than the real thing. “It was a source of embarrassment to all of us on the show,” Wopat told E!.

10. The Dukes of Hazzard's famous "hood slide" was an accident.

A staple—and, eventually, cliché—of action films everywhere, the slide over the hood was popularized by Tom Wopat. While it may have been tempting to take credit, Wopat said it was unintentional and that the first time he tried clearing the hood, the car’s antenna wound up injuring him.

11. The Dukes of Hazzard cartoon went international.


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Warner Bros. capitalized on the show’s phenomenal popularity with an animated series, The Dukes, which was produced by Hanna-Barbera and aired in 1983. Taking advantage of the form, the Duke boys traveled internationally, racing Boss Hogg through Greece or Hong Kong. Perhaps owing to the fact that the live-action series was already considered enough of a cartoon, the animated series only lasted 20 episodes.

12. In 2015, Warner Bros. banned the Confederate flag from The Dukes of Hazzard merchandising.

At the time the series originally aired, little was made of the General Lee sporting a Confederate flag on its hood. In 2015, after then-South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley spoke out against the depiction of the flag in popular culture, Warner Bros. elected to stop licensing products with the original roof. The company announced that all future Dukes merchandise would drop the design element. Schneider disagreed with the decision, telling The Hollywood Reporter, “Is the flag used as such in other applications? Yes, but certainly not on the Dukes ... Labeling anyone who has the flag a ‘racist’ seems unfair to those who are clearly ‘never meanin’ no harm.'”

10 Fascinating Facts About Chinese New Year

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iStock.com/aluxum

Some celebrants call it the Spring Festival, a stretch of time that signals the progression of the lunisolar Chinese calendar; others know it as the Chinese New Year. For a 15-day period beginning January 25 in 2020, China will welcome the Year of the Rat, one of 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac table.

Sound unfamiliar? No need to worry: Check out 10 facts about how one-sixth of the world's total population rings in the new year.

1. Chinese New Year was originally meant to scare off a monster.

Nian at Chinese New Year
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As legend would have it, many of the trademarks of the Chinese New Year are rooted in an ancient fear of Nian, a ferocious monster who would wait until the first day of the year to terrorize villagers. Acting on the advice of a wise old sage, the townspeople used loud noises from drums, fireworks, and the color red to scare him off—all remain components of the celebration today.

2. A lot of families use Chinese New Year as motivation to clean the house.

woman ready to clean a home
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While the methods of honoring the Chinese New Year have varied over the years, it originally began as an opportunity for households to cleanse their quarters of "huiqi," or the breaths of those that lingered in the area. Families performed meticulous cleaning rituals to honor deities that they believed would pay them visits. The holiday is still used as a time to get cleaning supplies out, although the work is supposed to be done before it officially begins.

3. Chinese New Year will prompt billions of trips.

Man waiting for a train.
iStock.com/MongkolChuewong

Because the Chinese New Year places emphasis on family ties, hundreds of millions of people will use the Lunar period to make the trip home. Accounting for cars, trains, planes, and other methods of transport, the holiday is estimated to prompt nearly three billion trips over the 15-day timeframe.

4. Chinese New Year involves a lot of superstitions.

Colorful pills and medications
iStock.com/FotografiaBasica

While not all revelers subscribe to embedded beliefs about what not to do during the Chinese New Year, others try their best to observe some very particular prohibitions. Visiting a hospital or taking medicine is believed to invite ill health; lending or borrowing money will promote debt; crying children can bring about bad luck.

5. Some people rent boyfriends or girlfriends for Chinese New Year to soothe their parents.

Young Asian couple smiling
iStock.com/RichVintage

In China, it's sometimes frowned upon to remain single as you enter your thirties. When singles return home to visit their parents, some will opt to hire a person to pose as their significant other in order to make it appear like they're in a relationship and avoid parental scolding. Rent-a-boyfriends or girlfriends can get an average of $145 a day.

6. Red envelopes are everywhere during Chinese New Year.

a person accepting a red envelope
iStock.com/Creative-Family

An often-observed tradition during Spring Festival is to give gifts of red envelopes containing money. (The color red symbolizes energy and fortune.) New bills are expected; old, wrinkled cash is a sign of laziness. People sometimes walk around with cash-stuffed envelopes in case they run into someone they need to give a gift to. If someone offers you an envelope, it's best to accept it with both hands and open it in private.

7. Chinese New Year can create record levels of smog.

fireworks over Beijing's Forbidden City
iStock.com/lusea

Fireworks are a staple of Spring Festival in China, but there's more danger associated with the tradition than explosive mishaps. Cities like Beijing can experience a 15-fold increase in particulate pollution. In 2016, Shanghai banned the lighting of fireworks within the metropolitan area.

8. Black clothes are a bad omen during Chinese New Year.

toddler dressed up for Chinese New Year
iStock.com/lusea

So are white clothes. In China, both black and white apparel is traditionally associated with mourning and are to be avoided during the Lunar month. The red, colorful clothes favored for the holiday symbolize good fortune.

9. Chinese New Year leads to planes being stuffed full of cherries.

Bowl of cherries
iStock.com/CatLane

Cherries are such a popular food during the Festival that suppliers need to go to extremes in order to meet demand. In 2017, Singapore Airlines flew four chartered jets to Southeast and North Asian areas. More than 300 tons were being delivered in time for the festivities.

10. Panda Express is hoping Chinese New Year will catch on in America.

Box of takeout Chinese food from Panda Express
domandtrey, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

Although their Chinese food menu runs more along the lines of Americanized fare, the franchise Panda Express is still hoping the U.S. will get more involved in the festival. The chain is promoting the holiday in its locations by running ad spots and giving away a red envelope containing a gift: a coupon for free food. Aside from a boost in business, Panda Express hopes to raise awareness about the popular holiday in North America.

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