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The World’s 8 Weirdest National Holidays

Whether it means a day off or just an excuse to celebrate, Americans love holidays, even preposterous ones such as National Miniature Golf Day, but we’re not the only ones. The world is full of weird holidays and I, for one, am eager to join in the celebration. If we unify the Earth, maybe we can have a worldwide holiday every day!

Day of The Sea

Image courtesy of szeke's Flickr stream.

While it is fairly common for countries to remember an important military event through the commemoration of a national holiday, few battles are remembered in such a strange way as the Bolivian loss of the Port of Calama to Chilean forces. On March 23, the land-locked country remembers the loss of its last ocean-front property by marching in parades (as seen above) and solemnly listening to recordings of sea gulls and ship’s horns.

Korean Alphabet Day(s)

As a writer, I’m pretty fond of the alphabet, but I’m still not ready to start a holiday in its honor. If I was a Korean writer, though, I would already have a day to celebrate. On October 9, the South Koreans celebrate Hangul Day and on January 15, the South Koreans observe Chosen gul Day, but both holidays are intended to celebrate the creation of the Korean Alphabet.

Image courtesy of minwoo's Flickr stream.

National Punctuation Day

If you are upset about the lack of a national holiday to celebrate your alphabet of choice, you can always observe America’s National Punctuation Day on September 24 instead. The holiday’s website urges you to celebrate this occasion by reading a newspaper and circling all the punctuation errors, noting store signs that use incorrect punctuation and purchasing a copy of Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style. Having fun yet? Well, maybe you can try writing a letter to a friend with correct punctuation to reflect on another year of wonderful grammar.

Image courtesy of Magic Madzik's Flickr stream.

National Weatherperson’s Day


Image courtesy of solidether's Flickr stream.

Weather announcers generally have impeccable speech, so it is only fitting that these well-spoken prophets of meteorology are given their own day of celebration. February 5 marks the 1774 birth of John Jeffries, one of America’s first weather observers. So how should you celebrate National Weather Person’s Day? Start off by checking into the National Weather Service in the morning and then plan your day accordingly. At the end of the day, curse or praise the weather person for their accuracies or inaccuracies and how they affected your day.

Bermuda Day

When you live on a tropical island, weather reports may not be quite as integral in your daily routine, but you still need to plan when it is or is not acceptable to wear shorts to business meetings. Bermuda celebrates this important mark on the calendar with the May 24 holiday, “Bermuda Day,” which marks the first day residents consider it acceptable to swim in the ocean, to release their boats on the water and to wear Bermuda shorts as business attire… and you thought Casual Friday was exciting.

Image courtesy of Spamily's Flickr stream.

Blessed Rain Day


Image courtesy of jmhullot's Flickr stream.

Of course, if you live in a landlocked country that is frequently ravaged by monsoons, then the end of monsoon season is almost certainly cause for celebration. That is why the people of Bhutan celebrate Blessed Rain Day every year by taking an outdoor bath in the mythically purified natural waters around them. Astrologers in service of the country’s chief abbot determine exactly what hour these baths are considered to be most sanctifying, but those that cannot bathe during this time tend to do so in the morning before sunrise instead. Because the date is determined by the Tibetan Lunar Calendar, the date varies, but it generally occurs between September 20 and 25 of the Gregorian Calendar.

Melon Day

How do you celebrate the creation of a popular crossbreed of muskmelons? If you live in Turkmenistan, you celebrate Turkmenbashi melons and muskmelons in general with a full day of festivities honoring the national holiday, which takes place every August 12. The president of the country has even reflected how important the holiday is to his people, noting that "since ancient times Turkmenistan has been considered the homeland of the best melons in the world."

Image courtesy of narumi-lock's Flickr stream.

Picnic Day

If you’re looking for a good day to enjoy a nice thick slice of Turkmenbashi melon, why not take a slice to Northern Australia on the first Monday of August, where you can celebrate Picnic Day. The day originated as a sort of labor day, allowing workers of Darwin's railway to go to Adelaide River for a picnic, but it is now a full three-day weekend of festivities and relaxation for the area. Even today, there is still a massive picnic held beside the Adelaide River every year in a traditional celebration of the holiday.

Image courtesy of Norma Desmond's Flickr stream.

Obama Day

While America is still widely divided on their opinions of Obama, he is a national hero in Kenya; so much so that they created a national holiday to celebrate his victory at the polls. Every November 6 since 2008, Kenyans have celebrated the first-generation American through parties and other forms of celebration. If you’re looking for a more local celebration of the president, apparently Perry County, Alabama has followed suit, declaring the second Monday of every November to be Obama Day, although I somehow doubt the festivities are as major as they are in Kenya.

Image courtesy of Zoriah's Flickr stream.

What’s the weirdest holiday you’ve ever celebrated and how did you observe the date?

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Animals
The School Book That Pioneered Funny Cat Pics 100 Years Before Lolcats

If you were learning to read in the early 20th century, you could do a lot worse than practicing on Eulalie Osgood Grover’s 1911 masterpiece of an early reader book, Kittens and Cats; a Book of Tales, which we spotted on the Public Domain Review. Long before lolcats or Instagram-famous felines, Grover’s teaching tool imagined what cats would say if they could talk. And boy, do they have things to say. In one chapter, a cat muses about how hard it is to drink out of china cups. In another, a cat wonders who that cat he saw in the mirror was. The first chapter’s narrator proclaims “I am the Queen of all the Kittens. I am the Queen! the Queen!” (Show me a cat who doesn’t think that.)

The chapters, usually just a page or so long, are all accompanied by photographs of cats and kittens dressed up in silly hats and frilly outfits and labeled with captions related to the story, like “I am taking a bath,” “I am Granny Gray,” and “I am the queen!”

According to the Public Domain Review, the photographs were likely the work of pioneering animal photographer Harry Whittier Frees, who insisted that his carefully posed portraits were the result of human handling, not taxidermy. Given how crisply his early-20th-century camera shutter managed to capture piles of kittens, the claim seems suspicious. But please dwell on how amazing these little stories and portraits are and not the stuffing that might be hiding behind these cute kitties’ glassy eyes. Go ahead and enjoy a few of the most delightful spreads below.

Not sure why every elementary school on earth isn't teaching their students to read with this book.

[h/t Public Domain Review]

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Pop Culture
An AI Program Wrote Harry Potter Fan Fiction—and the Results Are Hilarious
Andreas Rentz/Getty Images
Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

“The castle ground snarled with a wave of magically magnified wind.”

So begins the 13th chapter of the latest Harry Potter installment, a text called Harry Potter and the Portrait of What Looked Like a Large Pile of Ash. OK, so it’s not a J.K. Rowling original—it was written by artificial intelligence. As The Verge explains, the computer-science whizzes at Botnik Studios created this three-page work of fan fiction after training an algorithm on the text of all seven Harry Potter books.

The short chapter was made with the help of a predictive text algorithm designed to churn out phrases similar in style and content to what you’d find in one of the Harry Potter novels it "read." The story isn’t totally nonsensical, though. Twenty human editors chose which AI-generated suggestions to put into the chapter, wrangling the predictive text into a linear(ish) tale.

While magnified wind doesn’t seem so crazy for the Harry Potter universe, the text immediately takes a turn for the absurd after that first sentence. Ron starts doing a “frenzied tap dance,” and then he eats Hermione’s family. And that’s just on the first page. Harry and his friends spy on Death Eaters and tussle with Voldemort—all very spot-on Rowling plot points—but then Harry dips Hermione in hot sauce, and “several long pumpkins” fall out of Professor McGonagall.

Some parts are far more simplistic than Rowling would write them, but aren’t exactly wrong with regards to the Harry Potter universe. Like: “Magic: it was something Harry Potter thought was very good.” Indeed he does!

It ends with another bit of prose that’s not exactly Rowling’s style, but it’s certainly an accurate analysis of the main current that runs throughout all the Harry Potter books. It reads: “‘I’m Harry Potter,’ Harry began yelling. ‘The dark arts better be worried, oh boy!’”

Harry Potter isn’t the only work of fiction that Jamie Brew—a former head writer for ClickHole and the creator of Botnik’s predictive keyboard—and other Botnik writers have turned their attention to. Botnik has previously created AI-generated scripts for TV shows like The X-Files and Scrubs, among other ridiculous machine-written parodies.

To delve into all the magical fiction that Botnik users have dreamed up, follow the studio on Twitter.

[h/t The Verge]

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