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15 Offbeat Holidays You Can Celebrate in October

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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


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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


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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.

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A.C. Gilbert, the Toymaker Who (Actually) Saved Christmas 
Travel Salem via Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0
Travel Salem via Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

Alfred Carlton Gilbert was told he had 15 minutes to convince the United States government not to cancel Christmas.

For hours, he paced the outer hall, awaiting his turn before the Council of National Defense. With him were the tools of his trade: toy submarines, air rifles, and colorful picture books. As government personnel walked by, Gilbert, bashful about his cache of kid things, tried hiding them behind a leather satchel.

Finally, his name was called. It was 1918, the U.S. was embroiled in World War I, and the Council had made an open issue about their deliberation over whether to halt all production of toys indefinitely, turning factories into ammunition centers and even discouraging giving or receiving gifts that holiday season. Instead of toys, they argued, citizens should be spending money on war bonds. Playthings had become inconsequential.

Frantic toymakers persuaded Gilbert, founder of the A.C. Gilbert Company and creator of the popular Erector construction sets, to speak on their behalf. Toys in hand, he faced his own personal firing squad of military generals, policy advisors, and the Secretary of War.

Gilbert held up an air rifle and began to talk. What he’d say next would determine the fate of the entire toy industry.

Even if he had never had to testify on behalf of Christmas toys, A.C. Gilbert would still be remembered for living a remarkable life. Born in Oregon in 1884, Gilbert excelled at athletics, once holding the world record for consecutive chin-ups (39) and earning an Olympic gold medal in the pole vault during the 1908 Games. In 1909, he graduated from Yale School of Medicine with designs on remaining in sports as a health advisor.

But medicine wasn’t where Gilbert found his passion. A lifelong performer of magic, he set his sights on opening a business selling illusionist kits. The Mysto Manufacturing Company didn’t last long, but it proved to Gilbert that he had what it took to own and operate a small shingle. In 1916, three years after introducing the Erector sets, he renamed Mysto the A.C. Gilbert Company.

Erector was a big hit in the burgeoning American toy market, which had typically been fueled by imported toys from Germany. Kids could take the steel beams and make scaffolding, bridges, and other small-development projects. With the toy flying off shelves, Gilbert’s factory in New Haven, Connecticut grew so prosperous that he could afford to offer his employees benefits that were uncommon at the time, like maternity leave and partial medical insurance.

Gilbert’s reputation for being fair and level-headed led the growing toy industry to elect him their president for the newly created Toy Manufacturers of America, an assignment he readily accepted. But almost immediately, his position became something other than ceremonial: His peers began to grow concerned about the country’s involvement in the war and the growing belief that toys were a dispensable effort.

President Woodrow Wilson had appointed a Council of National Defense to debate these kinds of matters. The men were so preoccupied with the consequences of the U.S. marching into a European conflict that something as trivial as a pull-string toy or chemistry set seemed almost insulting to contemplate. Several toy companies agreed to convert to munitions factories, as did Gilbert. But when the Council began discussing a blanket prohibition on toymaking and even gift-giving, Gilbert was given an opportunity to defend his industry.

Before Gilbert was allowed into the Council’s chambers, a Naval guard inspected each toy for any sign of sabotage. Satisfied, he allowed Gilbert in. Among the officials sitting opposite him were Secretary of War Newton Baker and Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels.

“The greatest influences in the life of a boy are his toys,” Gilbert said. “Yet through the toys American manufacturers are turning out, he gets both fun and an education. The American boy is a genuine boy and wants genuine toys."

He drew an air rifle, showing the committee members how a child wielding less-than-lethal weapons could make for a better marksman when he was old enough to become a soldier. He insisted construction toys—like the A.C. Gilbert Erector Set—fostered creative thinking. He told the men that toys provided a valuable escape from the horror stories coming out of combat.

Armed with play objects, a boy’s life could be directed toward “construction, not destruction,” Gilbert said.

Gilbert then laid out his toys for the board to examine. Secretary Daniels grew absorbed with a toy submarine, marveling at the detail and asking Gilbert if it could be bought anywhere in the country. Other officials examined children’s books; one began pushing a train around the table.

The word didn’t come immediately, but the expressions on the faces of the officials told the story: Gilbert had won them over. There would be no toy or gift embargo that year.

Naturally, Gilbert still devoted his work floors to the production efforts for both the first and second world wars. By the 1950s, the A.C. Gilbert Company was dominating the toy business with products that demanded kids be engaged and attentive. Notoriously, he issued a U-238 Atomic Energy Lab, which came complete with four types of uranium ore. “Completely safe and harmless!” the box promised. A Geiger counter was included. At $50 each, Gilbert lost money on it, though his decision to produce it would earn him a certain infamy in toy circles.

“It was not suitable for the same age groups as our simpler chemistry and microscope sets, for instance,” he once said, “and you could not manufacture such a thing as a beginner’s atomic energy lab.”

Gilbert’s company reached an astounding $20 million in sales in 1953. By the mid-1960s, just a few years after Gilbert's death in 1961, it was gone, driven out of business by the apathy of new investors. No one, it seemed, had quite the same passion for play as Gilbert, who had spent over half a century providing fun and educational fare that kids were ecstatic to see under their trees.

When news of the Council’s 1918 decision reached the media, The Boston Globe's front page copy summed up Gilbert’s contribution perfectly: “The Man Who Saved Christmas.”

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History
The Queen of Code: Remembering Grace Hopper
By Lynn Gilbert, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Grace Hopper was a computing pioneer. She coined the term "computer bug" after finding a moth stuck inside Harvard's Mark II computer in 1947 (which in turn led to the term "debug," meaning solving problems in computer code). She did the foundational work that led to the COBOL programming language, used in mission-critical computing systems for decades (including today). She worked in World War II using very early computers to help end the war. When she retired from the U.S. Navy at age 79, she was the oldest active-duty commissioned officer in the service. Hopper, who was born on this day in 1906, is a hero of computing and a brilliant role model, but not many people know her story.

In this short documentary from FiveThirtyEight, directed by Gillian Jacobs, we learned about Grace Hopper from several biographers, archival photographs, and footage of her speaking in her later years. If you've never heard of Grace Hopper, or you're even vaguely interested in the history of computing or women in computing, this is a must-watch:

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