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8 Other Unusual Holidays

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Me hearties, today is the 14th annual international Talk Like a Pirate Day! So how aarrr yee all celebratin'? Let us know! Meanwhile, we thought we'd honor the crazy holiday by dropping a bunch of other strange ones on you. Because when it comes to holidays, there's no shortage in the bizarre category.

For instance, did you know that January 19th is Brew a Potion Day and July 25th is national Candles on a Cake Day? Yes, if there's an activity or pastime that people enjoy (or don't enjoy), odds are there's a holiday to honor it. Here are eight more you may not have heard of:

1. Thomas Crapper Day "“ January 27th

Also known as "toilet day," this holiday honors the man most people think of when they... think about toilet history. As you probably know, however, Thomas Crapper did not invent the flush toilet, he merely improved it. Of course, flush toilets had been used since the days of the Roman Empire, but the technology was lost after the fall of Rome. John Harrington of England is widely recognized as the inventor of the flush toilet, but a practical model wasn't patented until the late 1700s. Crapper popularized the siphon system for emptying the tanks. His company, Thomas Crapper & Co., received a royal warrant by Prince Edward (later Edward VII) to supply the plumbing the Prince's Norfolk estate. Crapper died on January 27th, 1910, and so the holiday falls on the anniversary of his death.

Holy crapper: Contrary to popular belief, the similarity between Crapper's name and the much older krape, or a stinky fish in German, is merely a coincidence.

How can I celebrate Thomas Crapper Day?

Given the unusual nature of the holiday, the G-rated way to celebrate it is by playing a game called Toilet Memory. One person drops 10 items in a toilet, which will either sink or float. The other players have five seconds to reach inside the bowl and see what's inside. Everyone then writes what he saw on a piece of paper. Whoever can remember all 10 items wins.

2. National Regifting Day "“ Thursday before Christmas

seinfeld_refigting_episode098Research has shown that 40 percent of office gifts are regifted. So it's fitting that National Regifting Day is held on the Thursday before Christmas, when most office parties take place. The state of Colorado has even declared December 18th the official date, while an informative Web site www.nationalregiftingday.com, has been created to give people answers on the regifiting dos and don'ts.

How can I celebrate National Regifting Day?

Have a regifting party. Each guest should bring and leave with one gift that was previously gifted. The only rule is that no first-time gifts are allowed. (Not that anyone would know, right?)

3. Middle Name Pride Day "“ First Friday in March

Celebrate Your Name Week (CYNM) was established in 1997 by the American onomatologist Jerry Hill. The weeklong celebration occurs during the first full week in March, and that Friday is reserved for Middle Name Pride Day. Hill's fascination with names goes back to the early days of his youth. As a child he heard of a similar-aged boy who was killed in his city. Much to Hill's surprise, the boy's name was also Jerry Hill "“ and so began a lifelong fascination with names. Middle Name Pride Day was established to allow people to feel good about their often-unused names.

What's in a name? Some documents will use the abbreviation NMN"(no middle name) or NMI (no middle initial) when the person does not have a middle name.

How can I celebrate Middle Name Day?

According to founder Jerry Hill, the best way to celebrate the holiday is by revealing your middle name to at least three people who don't already know it.

4. Newman's Day "“ April 24th**

paul-newman2Celebrated mostly by college students around the country, the idea on Newman's Day is to consume 24 beers in 24 hours. The holiday began in the mid-70s and is named for the late Academy Award winning actor, and noted beer drinker, Paul Newman, who is said to have made the following remark during a keynote speech at a college campus: "Twenty-four in a day, twenty-four beers in a case. Coincidence? I think not." (Most sources call the remark apocryphal.)

Depending on what campus you celebrate the holiday, Newman's Day can fall on
**April 24th (Princeton and Yale), January 26th (Bates College), March 30th (Kenyon College, Newman's alma mater).

In 2004, when Newman's Day began to receive national media attention, the actor said he opposed the "holiday." Think that stopped students from doing the 24/24?

Newman's Day Fun Fact: A spin-off of Newman's Day recently started at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. Rather than beer, participants will spike Newman's Own salad dressing with liquor and drink it. Yum!

How can I celebrate Newman's Day?

Duh. Twenty-four beers in twenty-four hours! But here's the thing: no sleeping or vomiting, and all participants must also attend their normally scheduled classes.

5. Geek Pride Day "“ May 25th

Started in Spain in 2006, Geek Pride Day celebrates the real nerds in the world. By 2007, nearly all of Spain celebrated the holiday, which grew to include a nationwide nerd blood donation drive. In 2008, Geek Pride Day crossed the Atlantic. A "Geek Manifesto" was even created and included a list of basic rights. Some of the rights on the list include the right to be overweight, the right to have poor eyesight, and the right to be a virgin.

hitchhikers_guide_box_artMopping up: Geek Pride Day shares May 25th with Towel Day, which honors Douglas Adams, the late author of the popular science fiction novels, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. On Towel Day, Adams' fans carry around a towel to demonstrate their love of his books. Why towels? Well if you have to ask, then you haven't read the book: A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have.

How can I celebrate Geek Pride Day?

According to a Spanish Web site dedicated to the holiday, all non-geeks are asked to either hug a geek or buy them a card with plenty of imbedded microelectronics.

6. Gotcha Day "“ September 15th

Started in 2005 by the Chicago Spectrum Press, Gotcha Day encourages adoptive families to commemorate their child's homecoming. The idea came about quite simply: The celebration of a child's birth is practiced in many cultures, but it's rare for an adoptive family to be present for their child's birth. Thus, Gotcha Day was, er, born. Although Gotcha Day is a widely celebrated event, its name has drawn some criticism by parents who believe it sounds awkward (as in "I gotcha orphan! You're mine now!"). Nevertheless, the Gotcha Day name has stuck, despite that Adoptive Families Magazine (who subscribes?) recently lobbied to rename Gotcha Day, Family Day or Adoption Day.

How can I celebrate Gotcha Day?

Most families celebrate Gotcha Day as one would a traditional birthday. They exchange presents and eat cake. There's one Gotcha Day tradition where the family stands in a circle and passes around a candle, all while sharing stories about the adopted child's importance in all of their lives.

7. Bloomsday "“ June 16th

joycePrimarily celebrated in Dublin, Bloomsday celebrates James Joyce's Ulysses, which, as you remember, unfolds (and folds back again) over the course of June 16, 1904.The day also marks the first time Joyce and his wife-to-be, Nora Barnacle, had their first date. The name Bloomsday, of course, is derived from Leopold Bloom, the novel's protagonist.

Art imitating art: A noted James Joyce fan, Director Richard Linklater references Ulysses in two of his films. In 1991's Slacker, a character reads an excerpt from the novel after convincing his friends to throw a typewriter in a river. Likewise, the events Linklater's Before Sunrise take place on June 16th.

How can I celebrate Bloomsday?

The majority of festivities take place in Dublin and involve readings and dramatizations of Ulysses. Pub crawls (Joyce was a heavy drinker) are also popular, even costume parties where participants dress in the appropriate Edwardian attire.

8. Savage Christmas "“ August 25th

lantern-press-old-faithful-inn-yellowstone-national-park-wyomingWe've all heard of Christmas in July, but Christmas in August (also known as "Savage Christmas") is a longstanding annual tradition in Yellowstone National Park. Legend has it that a freak blizzard hit visitors of the Old Faithful Inn in the early part of the 20th century. But rather than cry over the fact that they were snowed in, the stranded guests left the hotel and decided to celebrate Christmas outside. The term "Savage Christmas" comes from the employees of the Old Faithful Inn (savages, as they were called), who used to have a yearly gala each July 25th known as Savage Day. By 1959, Savage Day was moved to August 25th and became known as Savage Christmas, or Christmas in August.

Snow job? There's no official record that a blizzard ever occurred in Yellowstone National Park in the early part of the twentieth century. The most snow ever to be recorded at the park during the month of August was when 1.8 inches fell on August 18, 1932.

How can I celebrate Savage Christmas?

Get thee to Old Faithful Inn at Yellowstone National Park! Festivities include decorating Christmas trees, singing carols, and, surprise surprise, the exchange of presents.

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Courtesy of Crumbs & Whiskers
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Animals
Inside Crumbs & Whiskers, the Bicoastal Cat Cafe That's Saving Kitties' Lives
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Courtesy of Crumbs & Whiskers

It took a backpacking trip to Thailand and a bit of serendipity for Kanchan Singh to realize her life goal of saving cats while serving lattes. “I met these two guys on the road [in 2014], and we became friends,” Singh tells Mental Floss about Crumbs & Whiskers, the bicoastal cat cafe she founded in Washington, D.C. in 2015 which, in addition to selling coffee and snacks, fosters adoptable felines from shelters. “They soon noticed that I was feeding every stray dog and cat in sight," and quickly picked up on the fact that their traveling companion was crazy about all things furry and fluffy.

On Singh’s final day in Thailand, which happened to be her birthday, her friends surprised her with a celebratory trip to a cat cafe in the city of Chiang Mai. “I remember walking in there being like, ‘This is the coolest, most amazing, weirdest thing I’ve ever done,'” Singh recalls. “I just connected with it so much on a spiritual level.”

Singh informed her friends that she planned to return to the U.S., quit her corporate consulting job, and open up her own cat cafe in the nation’s capital. They thought she was joking. But three years and two storefronts later, the joke is on everyone except for Singh—and the kitties she and her team have helped to rescue.

A customer pets cats while drinking coffee at the flagship Washington, D.C. location of cat cafe Crumbs & Whiskers.
A customer pets cats while drinking coffee at the flagship Washington, D.C. location of cat cafe Crumbs & Whiskers.
Courtesy of Crumbs & Whiskers

Washington, D.C. customers stroke a furry feline while enjoying coffee at cat cafe Crumbs & Whiskers.
Washington, D.C. customers stroke a furry feline while enjoying coffee at Crumbs & Whiskers.
Courtesy of Crumbs & Whiskers

Crumbs & Whiskers—which, in addition to its flagship D.C. location, also has a Los Angeles outpost—keeps a running count of the cats they've saved from risk of euthanasia and those who have been adopted. At press time, those numbers were 776 and 388, respectively, between the brand’s two locations.

Prices and services vary between establishments, but customers can typically expect to shell out anywhere from $6.50 to $35 to enjoy coffee time with cats (food and drinks are prepared off-site for health and safety reasons), activities like cat yoga sessions, or, in D.C., an entire day of coworking with—you guessed it—cats. Patrons can also participate in the occasional promotion or campaign, ranging from Black Friday fundraisers for shelter kitties to writing an ex-flame's name inside a litter box around Valentine's Day (where the cats will then do their business).

Cat cafes have existed in Asia for nearly 20 years, with the world’s first known one, Cat Flower Garden, opening in Taipei, Taiwan in 1998. The trend gained traction in Japan during the mid 2000s, and quickly spread across Asia. But when Singh visited Chiang Mai, the cat cafe craze—while alive and thriving in Thailand—had not yet hit the U.S. "Why does Thailand get this, but not the U.S.?" Singh remembers thinking.

Once she arrived back home in D.C., Singh set her sights on founding the nation’s first official cat cafe, launching a successful Kickstarter campaign that helped her secure a two-story space in the city’s Georgetown neighborhood. Ultimately, though, she was beat to the punch by the Cat Town Cafe in Oakland, California, which opened to the public in 2014, followed shortly after by establishments like New York City’s Meow Parlour.

LA customers at cat cafe Crumbs & Whiskers
LA customers at cat cafe Crumbs & Whiskers
Courtesy of Crumbs & Whiskers

Still, Crumbs & Whiskers—which officially launched in D.C. in the summer of 2015—was among the nation’s first wave of businesses (and the District's first) to offer customers the chance to enjoy feline companionship with a side of java, along with the opportunity to maybe even save a tiny life. Ultimately, the altruistic concept proved to be so successful that Singh, sensing a market for a similar storefront in Los Angeles, opened up a second location there in the fall of 2016. "I always felt like what L.A. is, culturally, just fits with the type of person that would go to a cat café," she says.

Someday, Singh hopes to bring Crumbs & Whiskers to Chicago and New York, and “for cat cafes as a concept, as an industry, to grow,” she says. “I think that it would be great for this to be the future of adoptions and animal rescues.” Until then, you can learn more about Crumbs & Whiskers (and the animals they rescue) by stopping by if you're in D.C. and LA, or by visiting their website.

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entertainment
15 Inconceivable Facts About The Princess Bride
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MGM

It's no wonder The Princess Bride is such a beloved film: It's action-packed but still lighthearted, sweet but not saccharine, silly but still smart—and, of course, endlessly quotable. Fortunately, in 2012, the movie's leading man Cary Elwes was inspired to write a behind-the-scenes book about the making of the movie in honor of its 25th anniversary, for which he interviewed nearly all of the key cast and crew (sadly, André the Giant, who played Fezzik, passed away in 1993).

Pulling from the impressively detailed text of As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride and various interviews Elwes and others have given over the years, we rounded up a series of fun facts and anecdotes sure to delight any fan of the film, which was released 30 years ago today.

1. IT WAS WRITTEN FOR THE AUTHOR'S DAUGHTERS.

William Goldman, who wrote the novel The Princess Bride in 1973 and penned the screenplay, told Entertainment Weekly that, "I had two little daughters, I think they were 7 and 4 at the time, and I said, 'I’ll write you a story. What do you want it to be about?' One of them said 'a princess' and the other one said 'a bride.' I said, 'That’ll be the title.'"

2. BOTH THE DIRECTOR AND THE LEADING MAN ALREADY KNEW AND LOVED THE STORY BEFORE FILMING EVEN BEGAN.

Cary Elwes' stepfather had given him Goldman's book in 1975, when the future actor was just 13 years old. Rob Reiner, who directed the movie, first read the book in his 20s when Goldman gave it to his father. It quickly became Reiner's favorite book of all time, and he had long wanted to turn it into a movie—but he had no idea that many before him had tried and failed.

3. FOR A LONG TIME, NO ONE WAS ABLE TO MAKE THE MOVIE.

At one point or another, Robert Redford, Norman Jewison, John Boorman, and François Truffaut all tried to get the book made into a movie, but due to a series of unrelated incidents—"green-lighters" getting fired, production houses closing—it languished for years. (In one of these proto-Princess Brides, a then-unknown Arnold Schwarzenegger was supposed to play Fezzik.) 

After several false starts, Goldman bought back the rights to the book. The movie only got made because Reiner had built up so much good will with movies like This is Spinal Tap and The Sure Thing that the studio, 20th Century Foxoffered to make any project of his choice.

4. MANDY PATINKIN FELT A PERSONAL CONNECTION TO THE CHARACTER OF INIGO MONTOYA.

Andre the Giant, Mandy Patinkin and Wallace Shawn in The Princess Bride (1987).
MGM

"The moment I read the script, I loved the part of Inigo Montoya," Patinkin told Entertainment Weekly. "That character just spoke to me profoundly. I had lost my own father—he died at 53 years old from pancreatic cancer in 1972. I didn’t think about it consciously, but I think that there was a part of me that thought, If I get that man in black, my father will come back. I talked to my dad all the time during filming, and it was very healing for me."

5. ANDRÉ THE GIANT COULD REALLY, REALLY DRINK.

Three bottles of cognac and 12 bottles of wine reportedly made him just a little tipsy. When the cast would go out for dinner, André—who, according to Robin Wright, ordered four appetizers and five entrees—would drink out of a 40-ounce beer pitcher filled with a mix of liquors, a concoction he called "The American."

6. ANDRÉ HAD AN UNCONVENTIONAL METHOD FOR LEARNING HIS LINES.

Reiner and Goldman met André, then a famous wrestler, at a bar in Paris. "I brought him up to the hotel room to audition him. He read this three-page scene, and I couldn’t understand one word he said," Reiner recalled. "I go, ‘Oh my God, what am I going to do? He’s perfect physically for the part, but I can’t understand him!’ So I recorded his entire part on tape, exactly how I wanted him to do it, and he studied the tape. He got pretty good!"

7. WILLIAM GOLDMAN WAS INCREDIBLY NERVOUS ON THE SET.

Of all the projects he’d written and worked on—which included the Academy Award-winning Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid—Goldman loved The Princess Bride best of all. This manifested itself as extreme nervousness about the project. Reiner invited Goldman to be on set for the duration of the filming—which Goldman did not want to do, saying, “I don’t like being on set. If you’re a screenwriter, it’s boring”—but on the first day, he proved to be a slight nuisance. The first couple takes were plagued by a barely-audible chanting, which turned out to be Goldman praying things would go well. And when Wright's character's dress caught on fire, he panicked, yelling, "Oh my god! Her dress is on fire!"—even though Goldman himself had written that into the script.

8. WALLACE SHAWN WAS BRILLIANT, BUT ALWAYS ON EDGE.

Wallace Shawn and Robin Wright in The Princess Bride (1987)
MGM

Shawn, who played Vizzini the Sicilian, really is, like his character, a man of "dizzying intellect." He has a history degree from Harvard and studied philosophy and economics at Oxford. In fact, on a day off from filming The Princess Bride, Shawn went to Oxford to give a guest lecture on British and American literature. But Shawn was inconsolably nervous for the entirety of filming.

After learning from his agent that Reiner had originally wanted Danny DeVito for the part, Shawn was wracked with insecurity, perpetually convinced that he was going to be fired after every bad take. "Danny is inimitable," Shawn said. "Each scene we did, I pictured how he would have done it and I knew I could never possibly have done it the way he could have done it," he said.

9. THE DUEL BETWEEN WESTLEY AND INIGO WAS EXCRUCIATINGLY RESEARCHED AND REHEARSED.

Goldman spent months researching 17th-century swordfighting manuals to craft Westley and Inigo's duel; all the references the characters make to specific moves and styles are completely accurate. Then Elwes and Patinkin, neither of whom had much (if any) fencing experience, spent more months training to perfect it—right- and left-handed.

"I knew that my job was to become the world’s greatest sword fighter," Patinkin recalled in Elwes's book. "I trained for about two months in New York and then we went to London and Cary and I trained every day that we weren’t shooting for four months. There were no stuntmen involved in any of the sword fights, except for one flip in the air.” Even after months of pre-shooting training, the fencing instructors came to set and, when there were a few free minutes, would pull Elwes and Patinkin aside to work on the choreography for the scene, which was intentionally one of the last to be shot.

10. IT WAS ELWES'S IDEA TO DIVE HEADFIRST INTO THE "QUICKSAND."

That particular Fire Swamp stunt was accomplished by having a trap door underneath a layer of sand, below which there was foam padding for the actors to fall onto. Originally, the direction called for Westley to jump in feet-first after Buttercup, but Elwes argued this wasn't particularly heroic. Switching up the direction was a risky move—if the trap door wasn't opened at exactly the right instant, Elwes risked banging his head—or even breaking his neck. After the stunt double successfully executed the dive, Elwes himself tried it, and nailed it perfectly on the first take.

11. MIRACLE MAX REALLY WAS THAT FUNNY—AND YOU'RE NOT EVEN SEEING HIS BEST STUFF.

Billy Crystal brought two photos for his makeup artist, Peter Montagna, to draw inspiration from when creating Miracle Max: Crystal’s grandmother and Casey Stengel. As for the acting, Elwes wrote in his book, "For three days straight and 10 hours a day, Billy improvised 13th-century period jokes, never saying the same thing or the same line twice." Unfortunately for viewers, many of the improvised jokes were not fit for a family-friendly film. Only the cast and crew knows how funny his more crude Miracle Max takes were, but judging from the fact that Patinkin bruised a rib trying to stifle his laughter, as he recounts in the book, they were probably pretty good.

12. BILLY CRYSTAL AND CAROL KANE, WHO PLAYED HIS WIFE, INVENTED AN ENTIRE BACKSTORY.

Carol Kane and Billy Crystal in The Princess Bride (1987)
MGM

"Billy came over to my apartment in Los Angeles and we took the book and underlined things and made up a little more backstory for ourselves," Kane said. "We added our own twists and turns and stuff that would amuse us, because there’s supposed to be a long history—who knows how many hundreds of years Max and Valerie have been together?" How has that pair not gotten a spin-off film yet? 

13. ELWES FILMED MANY OF HIS SCENES WITH A BROKEN TOE.

Six weeks into production, André convinced Elwes to go for a spin on the ATV that was used to transport the larger man to and from filming locations because he didn’t fit in the van. Almost immediately, the vehicle hit a rocky patch and Elwes got his foot stuck between two mechanisms in the vehicle, breaking his big toe. The young actor tried to hide the injury from his director, but, of course, Reiner quickly found out. He didn't find a new Westley, as Elwes feared he might, but they did have to work some movie magic to allow Elwes to limp around in many of the scenes undetected.

14. ONE PARTICULAR ON-SCREEN INJURY WASN'T FAKED.

As soon as Westley recognizes Count Rugen as the six-fingered man, the script calls for the Count to knock our hero unconscious with the butt of his sword. In filming, Christopher Guest, who played Rugen, was naturally reluctant to really hit Elwes for fear of hurting him. Unfortunately, this reticence was reading on screen and take after take failed to look convincing. Finally, Elwes suggested Guest just go for, at least tap him on the head to get the reaction timing right. The tap came a little too hard, however, and Elwes was knocked legitimately unconscious; he later awoke in the hospital emergency room. It's that take, with Elwes actually passing out, that appears in the film.

15. ONE OF THE FINAL SCENES NEVER MADE IT INTO THE FINAL FILM.

In an alternate ending that was eventually cut, Fred Savage—who plays the initially reluctant audience to Peter Falk's reading of The Princess Bride—goes to his window after his grandfather has left and sees Fezzik, Inigo, Westley, and Buttercup all on their white horses.

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