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17 Offbeat Holidays and Anniversaries to Celebrate in December

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Halfway through last December, we gave you 11 unusual holidays to make the month even more festive. While we still highly endorse observing National Wear a Plunger on Your Head Day (December 18th) and National Cover Anything With Chocolate Day (December 16th), we found plenty of other reasons to keep your spirits bright all month.

1. December 1st: (A Proposed) Scrabble Day

Much to the chagrin of the Scrabulous inventors and the annoyance of Words with Friends, this granddaddy of word games is copyrighted. On this day in 1948, the U.S. Copyright Office made an honest board game out of Scrabble. In honor of this event, we propose all December 1sts be recognized as National Scrabble Day. (The holiday is currently held on April 13, the birthday of inventor Alfred Mosher Butts.)

2. December 3rd: 20th Anniversary of the First Text Message

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SMS was born on this date in 1992. The first message, sent to a Vodafone engineer, was "Merry Christmas." Celebrate every time you don't have to actually pick up the phone and call someone.

3. December 4th: National Cookie Day

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December isn’t exactly lacking in opportunities to indulge in sweet treats, but today it’s your offbeat-holiday-given right to mix, bake, and/or eat as many cookies as your glycemic index can handle.

4. December 5th: International Ninja Day

The official website of Ninja Day alleges this holiday not only honors all things stealth and nunchucks, but also combats the more nautical offbeat holiday, “Talk Like a Pirate Day,” which takes place in September. Creep, sneak, or redirect all of your Urls to Ninja activity—as long as you forgo the “arrrr matey’s” and eye patches for ominous silence and masks, you’re correctly celebrating this international holiday.

5. December 8th: Blessing of the Water Day, Uruguay

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Sometimes called “Beach Day,” this Uruguayan holiday involves a contest: Religious leaders send a cross into the ocean, and whoever gets to it first is guaranteed a year’s worth of good fortune.

6. December 9th: Weary Willie Day

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Professional clown Emmett Kelly created one of the more memorable clown characters of the 20th century: “Weary Willie.” Unlike many of his clown predecessors, Weary Willie opted out of white face paint and broad slapstick for the “tramp” look popular among Depression-era derelicts. One of his signature routines involved attempting to sweep up after circus acts, and failing in spite of himself—to the delight and empathy of the audience.

7. December 10th: Nobel Prize Day

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Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel may have died on this day in 1896, but his namesake continues to be honored through the world’s most prestigious award. In honor of his life, the Nobel Prize Ceremony is held every year on the day of his death.

8. December 12th: Festival of Unmentionable Thoughts

We would love to tell you about the origin of this fest or how one goes about celebrating it, but, well, common decency prevents us.

9. December 13th: National Cocoa Day

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The weather outside is starting to get frightful, but what better cure for the temperature blues than a nice cup of hot cocoa? A down coat or a wool hat simply can’t compete in the taste department.

10. December 14th: Monkey Day

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According to the official Monkey Day website, Monkey Day is an “annual celebration of all things simian, a festival of primates, a chance to scream like a monkey and throw feces at whomever you choose.” The origins of the holiday are unknown, though it has been observed since at least 2003. We mentioned it last year, but just really wanted to use that picture again.

11. December 15th: National Cat Herder’s Day

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Another gem from last year's list. Cat herding is as difficult as it sounds. Founded by a California couple, National Cat Herder’s Day isn’t just for people who actually wrangle felines, but also those whose lives or jobs feel as if they are constantly herding around cats. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, perhaps it will help to add the celebration of this obscure holiday to your Saturday schedule.

12. December 16th: The 15th Anniversary of That Bizarre Pokemon Incident

On this date in 1997, over 600 kids in Japan were rushed to hospitals after an especially intense Pokemon episode led to dizziness and vomiting. Maybe just turn the TV off today and celebrate outside.

13. December 16th: Beethoven’s Birthday

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We wish he could have been born on the 5th, too. But that doesn’t mean we can’t still listen to his famed 5th Symphony to celebrate his birthday. But if we’re playing the numbers game, he did happen to compose exactly 16 string quartets. Coincidence? (Yes.)

14. December 22nd: 100th Birthday of the Late Lady Bird Johnson

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We challenge you to find an American first lady with a more memorable nickname. While the legacy of her eponym is certainly enough, she proved herself to be a savvy political voice in Washington. After bankrolling the other LBJ’s first Congressional campaign, this LBJ became a high-powered businesswoman (she made their first million) and champion of the aesthetic health of our nation’s highways. Lady Bird also became the first First Lady to have her very own press secretary.

15. December 23rd: Festivus!

Then of course, there’s always Festivus for the rest of us. Created by a Seinfeld writer's father and popularized by Frank Costanza, this secular holiday that involves gathering around an aluminum pole and airing your grievances has continued to gain a following since its introduction in 1997. If you haven’t seen the episode, there’s an entire website that spells out how to celebrate Festivus from start to finish. (Test your Festivus knowledge with this quiz.)

16. December 24th: The End of the War of 1812 (in 1814)

Just in time for Christmas, the Americans and the British got their stuff together to sign the Treaty of Ghent, thus ending the War of 1812. Contrary to what this conflict might lead you to believe, the war lasted far past its inaugural year, and despite the peace treaty signature in 1814, the war didn't even officially end until 1815. On this day, we could always celebrate freedom and democracy—but why not honor inaccurately named conflicts too?

17. December 28th: 280th Anniversary of Poor Richard’s Almanac

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Imagine a periodical where you could access your calendar, the weather forecasts, poetry, stories, astrological facts, and much more all in one place? Poor Richard’s Almanac was kind of like the 18th-century iPhone. On this day in 1732, Benjamin Franklin released his famous pseudonym and annual publication to the American colonies. Fame, fortune, and a revolution would follow for Ben. Thanks to the legacy of this publication, we all know what an early bedtime and early rise can yield a man.

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10 Memorable Neil deGrasse Tyson Quotes
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Neil deGrasse Tyson is America's preeminent badass astrophysicist. He's a passionate advocate for science, NASA, and education. He's also well-known for a little incident involving Pluto. And the man holds nearly 20 honorary doctorates (in addition to his real one). In honor of his 59th birthday, here are 10 of our favorite Neil deGrasse Tyson quotes.

1. ON SCIENCE

"The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."
—From Real Time with Bill Maher.

2. ON NASA FUNDING

"As a fraction of your tax dollar today, what is the total cost of all spaceborne telescopes, planetary probes, the rovers on Mars, the International Space Station, the space shuttle, telescopes yet to orbit, and missions yet to fly?' Answer: one-half of one percent of each tax dollar. Half a penny. I’d prefer it were more: perhaps two cents on the dollar. Even during the storied Apollo era, peak NASA spending amounted to little more than four cents on the tax dollar." 
—From Space Chronicles

3. ON GOD AND HURRICANES

"Once upon a time, people identified the god Neptune as the source of storms at sea. Today we call these storms hurricanes ... The only people who still call hurricanes acts of God are the people who write insurance forms."
—From Death by Black Hole

4. ON THE BENEFITS OF TECHNOLOGY INVENTED FOR USE IN SPACE

"Countless women are alive today because of ideas stimulated by a design flaw in the Hubble Space Telescope." (Editor's note: technology used to repair the Hubble Space Telescope's optical problems led to improved technology for breast cancer detection.)
—From Space Chronicles

5. ON THE DEMOTION OF PLUTO FROM PLANET STATUS 

PBS

"I knew Pluto was popular among elementary schoolkids, but I had no idea they would mobilize into a 'Save Pluto' campaign. I now have a drawer full of hate letters from hundreds of elementary schoolchildren (with supportive cover letters from their science teachers) pleading with me to reverse my stance on Pluto. The file includes a photograph of the entire third grade of a school posing on their front steps and holding up a banner proclaiming, 'Dr. Tyson—Pluto is a Planet!'"
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit

6. ON JAMES CAMERON'S TITANIC

"In [Titanic], the stars above the ship bear no correspondence to any constellations in a real sky. Worse yet, while the heroine bobs ... we are treated to her view of this Hollywood sky—one where the stars on the right half of the scene trace the mirror image of the stars in the left half. How lazy can you get?"
—From Death by Black Hole

7. ON DEATH BY ASTEROID

"On Friday the 13th, April 2029, an asteroid large enough to fill the Rose Bowl as though it were an egg cup will fly so close to Earth that it will dip below the altitude of our communication satellites. We did not name this asteroid Bambi. Instead, we named it Apophis, after the Egyptian god of darkness and death."
—From Space Chronicles

8. ON THE MOTIVATIONS BEHIND AMERICA'S MOONSHOT

"[L]et us not fool ourselves into thinking we went to the Moon because we are pioneers, or discoverers, or adventurers. We went to the Moon because it was the militaristically expedient thing to do."
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit

9. ON INTELLIGENT LIFE (OR THE LACK THEREOF)

Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/n/neildegras615117.html
Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/n/neildegras615117.html

"Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life."

10. PRACTICAL ADVICE IN THE EVENT OF ALIEN CONTACT 

A still from Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Universal Studios
"[I]f an alien lands on your front lawn and extends an appendage as a gesture of greeting, before you get friendly, toss it an eightball. If the appendage explodes, then the alien was probably made of antimatter. If not, then you can proceed to take it to your leader."
—From Death by Black Hole
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40 Fun Facts About Sesame Street
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Now in its 47th season, Sesame Street is one of television's most iconic programs—and it's not just for kids. We're big fans of the Street, and to prove it, here are some of our favorite Sesame facts from previous stories and our Amazing Fact Generator.

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1. Oscar the Grouch used to be orange. Jim Henson decided to make him green before season two.

2. How did Oscar explain the color change? He said he went on vacation to the very damp Swamp Mushy Muddy and turned green overnight.

3. During a 2004 episode, Cookie Monster said that before he started eating cookies, his name was Sid.

4. In 1980, C-3PO and R2-D2 visited Sesame Street. They played games, sang songs, and R2-D2 fell in love with a fire hydrant.

5. Mr. Snuffleupagus has a first name—Aloysius

6. Ralph Nader stopped by in 1988 and sang "a consumer advocate is a person in your neighborhood."

7. Caroll Spinney said he based Oscar's voice on a cab driver from the Bronx who brought him to the audition.

8. In 1970, Ernie reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 with the timeless hit "Rubber Duckie."

9. One of Count von Count's lady friends is Countess von Backwards, who's also obsessed with counting but likes to do it backwards.

10. Sesame Street made its Afghanistan debut in 2011 with Baghch-e-Simsim (Sesame Garden). Big Bird, Grover and Elmo are involved.

11. According to Muppet Wiki, Oscar the Grouch and Count von Count were minimized on Baghch-e-Simsim "due to cultural taboos against trash and vampirism."

12. Before Giancarlo Esposito was Breaking Bad's super intense Gus Fring, he played Big Bird's camp counselor Mickey in 1982.

13. Thankfully, those episodes are available on YouTube.

14. How big is Big Bird? 8'2". (Pictured with First Lady Pat Nixon.)

15. In 2002, the South African version (Takalani Sesame) added an HIV-positive Muppet named Kami.

16. Six Republicans on the House Commerce Committee wrote a letter to PBS president Pat Mitchell warning that Kami was not appropriate for American children, and reminded Mitchell that their committee controlled PBS' funding.

17. Sesame Street's resident game show host Guy Smiley was using a pseudonym. His real name was Bernie Liederkrantz.

18. Bert and Ernie have been getting questioned about their sexuality for years. Ernie himself, as performed by Steve Whitmere, has weighed in: “All that stuff about me and Bert? It’s not true. We’re both very happy, but we’re not gay,”

19. A few years later, Bert (as performed by Eric Jacobson) answered the same question by saying, “No, no. In fact, sometimes we are not even friends; he can be a pain in the neck.”

20. In the first season, both Superman and Batman appeared in short cartoons produced by Filmation. In one clip, Batman told Bert and Ernie to stop arguing and take turns choosing what’s on TV.

21. In another segment, Superman battled a giant chimp.

22. Telly was originally "Television Monster," a TV-obsessed Muppet whose eyes whirled around as he watched.

23. According to Sesame Workshop, Elmo is the only non-human to testify before Congress.

24. He lobbied for more funding for music education, so that "when Elmo goes to school, there will be the instruments to play."

25. In the early 1990s, soon after Jim Henson’s passing, a rumor circulated that Ernie would be killed off in order to teach children about death, as they'd done with Mr. Hooper.

26. According to Snopes, the rumor may have spread thanks to New Hampshire college student, Michael Tabor, who convinced his graduating class to wear “Save Ernie” beanies and sign a petition to persuade Sesame Workshop to let Ernie live.

27. By the time Tabor was corrected, the newspapers had already picked up the story.

28. Sesame Street’s Executive Producer Carol-Lynn Parente joined Sesame Workshop as a production assistant and has worked her way to the top.

29. Originally, Count von Count was more sinister. He could hypnotize and stun people.

30. According to Sesame Workshop, all Sesame Street's main Muppets have four fingers except Cookie Monster, who has five.

31. The episode with Mr. Hooper's funeral aired on Thanksgiving Day in 1983. That date was chosen because families were more likely to be together at that time, in case kids had questions or needed emotional support.

32. Mr. Hooper’s first name was Harold.

33. Big Bird sang "Bein' Green" at Jim Henson's memorial service.

34. As Chris Higgins put it, the performance was "devastating."

35. Oscar's Israeli counterpart is Moishe Oofnik, whose last name means “grouch” in Hebrew.

36. Nigeria's version of Cookie Monster eats yams. His catchphrase: "ME WANT YAM!"

37. Sesame's Roosevelt Franklin ran a school, where he spoke in scat and taught about Africa. Some parents hated him, so in 1975 he got the boot, only to inspire Gob Bluth’s racist puppet Franklin on Arrested Development 28 years later.

38. Our good friend and contributor Eddie Deezen was the voice of Donnie Dodo in the 1985 classic Follow That Bird.

39. Cookie Monster evolved from The Wheel-Stealer—a snack-pilfering puppet Jim Henson created to promote Wheels, Crowns and Flutes in the 1960s.

40. This puppet later was seen eating a computer in an IBM training film and on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Thanks to Stacy Conradt, Joe Hennes, Drew Toal, and Chris Higgins for their previous Sesame coverage!

An earlier version of this article appeared in 2012.

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