Getty Images
Getty Images

15 Offbeat Holidays You Can Celebrate in October

Getty Images
Getty Images

Need a reason to celebrate this month? Look no further than the list below.

October 1st: National Homemade Cookies Day



Take a knee, Little Debbie, today we only want our tasty circular treats fresh from the oven. If you aren’t a master of the chocolate chip, take the day to make a little mess in the kitchen and give yourself a lesson in “from scratch.” Or for the less motivated set, make sure to butter up that special baker in your life to make some holiday treats for the both of you.

October 2nd: National Name Your Car Day

Or as KITT from Knight Rider calls it: National Me Day. In case you have not bestowed your wheels with a pet name yet, on this holiday you have no excuses. Don’t let the tiny detail of not owning an automobile stop you from celebrating. Since there’s no real origin story to Name Your Car Day, there are no rules: name your friend’s car, or your neighbor’s, or even a taxi!

October 4th: National Taco Day

The crisp autumn air of early October might not exactly scream “tacos,” but then again, why not? Skip the local fast food taqueria (unless, of course, they’re giving the tasty treats away), and go on a scavenger hunt for the best taco in your town. Or host a taco night for a couple of close friends. Tacos are nothing if not about bringing people closer together.

October 6th: Mad Hatter Day

In John Tenniel’s illustrations of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, he drew a white slip from the cap of the Mad Hatter that read, “In this style 10/6.” What better reason do you need to set aside the sixth of October to hold a merry tea party, be a little foolish, and wear an oversized hat? Of course, if you’re European you may argue that these celebrations are more suitably held on the tenth of June. Cultural confusion—classic Mad Hatter.

October 8th: Canadian Thanksgiving

Our neighbors to the north have their own day of giving thanks for the harvest, and they beat us to the punch by nearly a month and a half. In the late 1950s, the Canadian government declared the second Monday in every October Thanksgiving day. Though it does not mark a specific gathering of two groups like the U.S. version, Canadian Thanksgiving offers a great excuse to gobble down a turkey dinner in the name of neighborly solidarity.

October 12th: International Moment of Frustration Scream Day

Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, just stop and really let it out. We’re told you can hear the collective scream from space.

October 14th: national lowercase day

proper nouns be damned! today capital is purely an economic asset. your middle school grammar teacher might balk at such a holiday, but the shift button on your keyboard will thank you for the day off.

October 15th: Global Handwashing Day


Getty images

We certainly scratched our heads a few times about this one, because shouldn’t every day be global handwashing day? But an organization by the apropos name of The Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing with Soap felt it necessary to create an entire day of awareness to spread the gospel of clean hands. Anyone can celebrate, and public health benefits. It’s a win-win.

October 16th: National Dictionary Day

Word nerds rejoice! Today you may proudly pore over the pages of your Merriam-Webster and Oxford’s alike. Celebrate the holiday by learning 20 new words, and impress your peers and colleagues for life. Or at least for 20 minutes.

October 18th: National No Beard Day

We suspect that fellows unlucky in the facial hair-growing department might have something to do with this holiday. Regardless, if you are an offbeat holiday observer with facial hair, that chin strap has got to go. Those are the rules. A fresh start for your face could translate to a fresh start for your life. Which brings us to…

October 19th: Evaluate Your Life Day

This may seem better suited for post-New Years Eve, but get your existential ducks in a row early this year. Who are you? What do you want? Where do you want to go? These are just a few questions to get you started down the actualization rabbit hole. By January 1, you’ll have it all worked out!

October 20th: Information Overload Day

Knowledge economy research and advisory firm Basex estimates that “a minimum of 28 billion hours is lost each year to Information Overload in the United States.” For example, trudging through 100 email messages can suck up half of your workday. Reduce the noise, starting today. The Information Overload Challenge suggests you send 10% fewer email messages beginning on—but not ending on—the 20th of October. For example, if you were going to email this post to 100 of your closest friends, instead email it to 90. (We won’t tell if you break the rule just this once.)

October 24th: National Bologna Day

This distant cousin of the Charcuterie family is far less pretentious in taste than its name might imply. Bologna has roots in Bologna, Italy, derived from a sausage made there called mortadella. These days, it’s more humble, and commonly associated with cheeses of the Kraft Singles variety. It also can be a colloquial expression meaning “full of it,” which you just might be after a holiday of eating lots of bologna.

October 26th (2012): Nevada Day

A legal holiday in Nevada, this day commemorates its entry into statehood and frontier roots. It became the official 36th state on October 31st, 1864. But, due to that pesky other holiday falling on the same date known as “Halloween,” state voters decided in 1999 to observe the holiday on the last Friday of every October with parades, concerts, balls, and a day off of work. For those Nevadan purists, 10/31 is still technically Nevada Day.

October 30th: Mischief Night


Getty Images

AKA the Devil’s Night or “Hell Night.” Halloween might yield some frightening costumes and even more frightening levels of high fructose corn syrup, but the night before is when the real (dark) magic happens. In the United States, teenage hooligans prowl their suburban streets with toilet paper, eggs, and, well, mischief in their hearts. Unless you enjoy a good prank, we suggest you stay inside and don’t answer the doorbell.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Dennis Oulds, Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
When John Lennon and Yoko Ono Mailed Acorns to World Leaders
 Dennis Oulds, Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Dennis Oulds, Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

John Lennon and Yoko Ono had a big year in 1969. Following a quick wedding ceremony in Gibraltar, they hopped over to Amsterdam and used their honeymoon suite at the Hilton as a stage for their week-long “Bed-In for Peace” protest against the Vietnam War. A week later they were in Vienna wearing bags over their bodies and declaring the formation of a comical new philosophy called “bagism." Their goal, they said, was to promote "total communication" by getting people to focus on their message instead of their skin color, ethnicity, clothes, or in Lennon's case, hair length.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono with a sign reading "bagism"
Bob Aylott, Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

These attention-grabbing antics were among their most famous peace efforts, but that same year they undertook a very different project. This time, away from the cameras, Lennon and Ono mailed acorns to some of the world's most important leaders and asked that they be planted in support of world peace.

The idea had been a year in the making. While filming a part for a movie called A Love Story on June 15, 1968, Lennon and Ono planted two acorns at England’s Coventry Cathedral, which had been bombed during WWII and was later rebuilt as a symbol of peace. They were “planted in east and westerly positions,” symbolizing the union of Lennon and Ono and their respective cultures.

Then, in 1969, they decided to scale up their "peace acorn" project. Along with two acorns placed in a small, round case, they sent world leaders a letter that read: “Enclosed in this package we are sending you two living sculptures—which are acorns—in the hope that you will plant them in your garden and grow two oak trees for world peace. Yours with love, John and Yoko Ono Lennon.”

Like the proverb “Great oaks from little acorns grow,” the couple understood the power of small gestures and wanted to start a conversation that would get world leaders thinking about the possibility of peace—or in Lennon's words, to encourage them to "give peace a chance."

John and Yoko hold up a protest sign that says "War is over if you want it."
Frank Barratt, Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

They did provoke some thought, at least. In a 1970 interview with Rolling Stone, Lennon explained, “We got reaction to sending acorns—different heads of state actually planted their acorns, lots of them wrote to us answering about the acorns. We sent acorns to practically everybody in the world.”

The two acorns were “submitted to Her Majesty [Queen Elizabeth II] in due course,” according to a letter that the Privy Purse Office at Buckingham Palace sent to the Lennons. A response from Malaysia confirmed that the acorns were to be planted in Kuala Lumpur’s Palace Gardens, and another letter from South Africa indicated that they would be planted on then-president Jim Fouché’s farm.

Golda Meir, then-prime minister of Israel, reportedly said something along the lines of, “I don’t know who they are but if it’s for peace, we’re for it,” Lennon told Rolling Stone. An official response sent by Meir’s assistant director in 1970 read, “Mrs. Meir very much appreciated the gesture, the underlying symbolism of which she would indeed like to see take root within a realistic framework.”

One particularly polite response came from Cambodia's head of state, Norodom Sihanouk, who worried he had erred in addressing Lennon and Ono as Mr. and Mrs. (he hadn't). He wrote, “Dear Sir and Madam, I may have wrongly assumed the friendly donators of acorns are husband and wife, and would like to submit ‘preventive’ apologies, together with my sincerest thanks for their gift.”

Norodom Sihanouk at a naval event
Norodom Sihanouk at a naval event in 1960
Three Lions/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Ono saved all of these letters, and photocopies can be viewed on her website. For his part, Lennon memorialized the event in The Beatles single "The Ballad of John and Yoko." In case you've ever wondered what the line "50 acorns tied in a sack" means, the verse in question references the events following their honeymoon and return to London:

Caught the early plane back to London
Fifty acorns tied in a sack
The men from the press
Said we wish you success
It's good to have the both of you back

To mark the 40th anniversary of the peace acorn offering in 2009, Ono recreated the act and sent acorns to 123 world leaders, including Barack and Michelle Obama. Next year, for the 50th anniversary, it remains to be seen if the famous peace acorns will again make their way around the world. If you happen to be a president or the Queen, you might want to save a spot in your garden, just in case.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Illustration by Mental Floss. Image: Rischgitz, Getty Images
11 Things You Might Not Know About Johann Sebastian Bach
Illustration by Mental Floss. Image: Rischgitz, Getty Images
Illustration by Mental Floss. Image: Rischgitz, Getty Images

Johann Sebastian Bach is everywhere. Weddings? Bach. Haunted houses? Bach. Church? Bach. Shredding electric guitar solos? Look, it’s Bach! The Baroque composer produced more than 1100 works, from liturgical organ pieces to secular cantatas for orchestra, and his ideas about musical form and harmony continue to influence generations of music-makers. Here are 11 things you might not know about the man behind the music.

1. PEOPLE DISAGREE ABOUT WHEN TO CELEBRATE HIS BIRTHDAY.

Some people celebrate Bach’s birthday on March 21. Other people light the candles on March 31. The correct date depends on whom you ask. Bach was born in Thuringia in 1685, when the German state was still observing the Julian calendar. Today, we use the Gregorian calendar, which shifted the dates by 11 days. And while most biographies opt for the March 31 date, Bach scholar Christopher Wolff firmly roots for Team 21. “True, his life was actually 11 days longer because Protestant Germany adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1700,” he told Classical MPR, “but with the legal stipulation that all dates prior to Dec. 31, 1699, remain valid.”

2. HE WAS THE CENTER OF A MUSICAL DYNASTY.

Bach’s great-grandfather was a piper. His grandfather was a court musician. His father was a violinist, organist, court trumpeter, and kettledrum player. At least two of his uncles were composers. He had five brothers—all named Johann—and the three who lived to adulthood became musicians. J.S. Bach also had 20 children, and, of those who lived past childhood, at least five became professional composers. According to the Nekrolog, an obituary written by Bach’s son Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, "[S]tarting with Veit Bach, the founding father of this family, all his descendants, down to the seventh generation, have dedicated themselves to the profession of music, with only a few exceptions."

3. BACH TOOK A MUSICAL PILGRIMAGE THAT PUTS EVERY ROAD TRIP TO WOODSTOCK TO SHAME.

In 1705, 20-year-old Bach walked 280 miles—that's right, walked—from the city of Arnstadt to Lübeck in northern Germany to hear a concert by the influential organist and composer Dieterich Buxtehude. He stuck around for four months to study with the musician [PDF]. Bach hoped to succeed Buxtehude as the organist of Lübeck's St. Mary's Church, but marriage to one of Buxtehude's daughters was a prerequisite to taking over the job. Bach declined, and walked back home.

4. HE BRAWLED WITH HIS STUDENTS.

One of Bach’s first jobs was as a church organist in Arnstadt. When he signed up for the role, nobody told him he also had to teach a student choir and orchestra, a responsibility Bach hated. Not one to mince words, Bach one day lost patience with a error-prone bassoonist, Johann Geyersbach, and called him a zippelfagottist—that is, a “nanny-goat bassoonist.” Those were fighting words. Days later, Geyersbach attacked Bach with a walking stick. Bach pulled a dagger. The rumble escalated into a full-blown scrum that required the two be pulled apart.

5. BACH SPENT 30 DAYS IN JAIL FOR QUITTING HIS JOB.

When Bach took a job in 1708 as a chamber musician in the court of the Duke of Saxe-Weimar, he once again assumed a slew of responsibilities that he never signed up for. This time, he took it in stride, believing his hard work would lead to his promotion to kapellmeister (music director). But after five years, the top job was handed to the former kapellmeister’s son. Furious, Bach resigned and joined a rival court. As retribution, the duke jailed him for four weeks. Bach spent his time in the slammer writing preludes for organ.

6. THE BRANDENBURG CONCERTOS WERE A FAILED JOB APPLICATION.

Around 1721, Bach was the head of court music for Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Köthen. Unfortunately, the composer reportedly didn’t get along with the prince’s new wife, and he started looking for a new gig. (Notice a pattern?) Bach polished some manuscripts that had been sitting around and mailed them to a potential employer, Christian Ludwig, the Margrave of Brandenburg. That package, which included the Brandenburg Concertos—now considered some of the most important orchestral compositions of the Baroque era—failed to get Bach the job [PDF].

7. HE WROTE ONE OF THE WORLD'S GREATEST COFFEE JINGLES.

Bach apparently loved coffee enough to write a song about it: "Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht" ("Be still, stop chattering"). Performed in 1735 at Zimmerman’s coffee house in Leipzig, the song is about a coffee-obsessed woman whose father wants her to stop drinking the caffeinated stuff. She rebels and sings this stanza:

Ah! How sweet coffee tastes
More delicious than a thousand kisses
Milder than muscatel wine.
Coffee, I have to have coffee,
And, if someone wants to pamper me,
Ah, then bring me coffee as a gift!

8. IF BACH CHALLENGED YOU TO A KEYBOARD DUEL, YOU WERE GUARANTEED TO BE EMBARRASSED.

In 1717, Louis Marchand, a harpsichordist from France, was invited to play for Augustus, Elector of Saxony, and performed so well that he was offered a position playing for the court. This annoyed the court’s concertmaster, who found Marchand arrogant and insufferable. To scare the French harpsichordist away, the concertmaster hatched a plan with his friend, J.S. Bach: a keyboard duel. Bach and Marchand would improvise over a number of different styles, and the winner would take home 500 talers. But when Marchand learned just how talented Bach was, he hightailed it out of town.

9. SOME OF HIS MUSIC MAY HAVE BEEN COMPOSED TO HELP INSOMNIA.

Some people are ashamed to admit that classical music, especially the Baroque style, makes them sleepy. Be ashamed no more! According to Bach’s earliest biographer, the Goldberg Variations were composed to help Count Hermann Karl von Keyserling overcome insomnia. (This story, to be fair, is disputed.) Whatever the truth, it hasn’t stopped the Andersson Dance troupe from presenting a fantastic Goldberg-based tour of performances called “Ternary Patterns for Insomnia.” Sleep researchers have also suggested studying the tunes’ effects on sleeplessness [PDF].

10. HE WAS BLINDED BY BOTCHED EYE SURGERY.

When Bach was 65, he had eye surgery. The “couching” procedure, which was performed by a traveling surgeon named John Taylor, involved shoving the cataract deep into the eye with a blunt instrument. Post-op, Taylor gave the composer eye drops that contained pigeon blood, mercury, and pulverized sugar. It didn’t work. Bach went blind and died shortly after. Meanwhile, Taylor moved on to botch more musical surgeries. He would perform the same procedure on the composer George Frideric Handel, who also went blind.

11. NOBODY IS 100 PERCENT CONFIDENT THAT BACH IS BURIED IN HIS GRAVE.

In 1894, the pastor of St. John’s Church in Leipzig wanted to move the composer’s body out of the church graveyard to a more dignified setting. There was one small problem: Bach had been buried in an unmarked grave, as was common for regular folks at the time. According to craniologist Wilhelm His, a dig crew tried its best to find the composer but instead found “heaps of bones, some in many layers lying on top of each other, some mixed in with the remains of coffins, others already smashed by the hacking of the diggers.” The team later claimed to find Bach’s box, but there’s doubt they found the right (de)composer. Today, Bach supposedly resides in Leipzig’s St. Thomas Church.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios