Today is National Necktie Day in Croatia—Birthplace of the Necktie

Srdjan Stevanovic, Getty Images
Srdjan Stevanovic, Getty Images

If you're wearing a necktie to work today, you can thank (or blame) the Croatians for this stylish invention. The necktie's predecessor, a short knotted garment called the cravat, is a source of pride in this Western Balkan nation—so much so that they celebrate Cravat Day each year on October 18.

It's unclear when exactly the necktie was invented, but Croatian soldiers wore red cravats as part of their uniform during the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648). According to The Atlantic, Croatian mercenaries carried it to Western Europe that same century, and the French borrowed the idea and dubbed it the cravate. It became even more stylish when Louis XIV of France started wearing a lace cravat in 1646 at the tender age of 7, according to The Dubrovnik Times. The English eventually helped spread the accessory around the world, and it morphed into the elongated form we're most familiar with today.

In 1997, a nonprofit organization called the Academia Cravatica was founded to promote the cravat as a symbol of Croatian ingenuity. "By spreading the truth about the cravat, we improve Croatia's image in the international public," the organization states. "The fact that Croats invented the Cravat makes us proud to be Croats." (According to Time Out, Croatia also invented the first MP3 player, the zeppelin, the parachute, and fingerprint identification.)

The cravat is also tied up with national identity. The words Croat and cravat are etymologically linked, and were once different spellings of the same word. One sample sentence by David Hume in 1752 reads, "The troops are filled with Cravates and Tartars, Hussars, and Cossacs."

The holiday isn't normally a big to-do, but the county's capital city, Zagreb, occasionally gets pretty festive. In 2003, when the holiday first debuted in Croatia, the Academia Cravatica wrapped an oversized red necktie around Pula Arena, a Roman amphitheater. It took two years to prepare and five days to install—and at 2650 feet long, it ended up being the largest necktie in the world, as recognized by Guinness World Records.

Cravat Day was formally declared a holiday by Croatian Parliament in 2008, and it's been a hallmark of Croatian culture ever since. A few events were planned in Zagreb today, including a march featuring the "city's famous Cravat Regiment." So if you happen to be in the Croatian capital, now you know why more than 50 historic statues are looking dapper in their red cravats.

8 Spooky Facts About Spirit Halloween

JJBers, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
JJBers, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Every year in August, when people start anticipating cooler days and longer nights, the vacant husks of defunct retail stores are possessed with new life. A creepy clown statue appears in the window of a former JCPenney’s; the aisles of an old Radio Shack are stocked with sexy Daenerys costumes—and above the entrance where the old store’s logo used to be, a banner shows a grim reaper lurking next to the name Spirit Halloween.

Spirit Halloween has turned seasonal pop-up stores into a multi-million dollar business. In the 2015 Halloween season, the company raked in $400 million in sales. Here are some facts about the ephemeral costume shop to bring up the next time you visit a Spirit Halloween location near you.

1. Spirit Halloween started as Spirit Women’s Discount Apparel.

Before Spirit sold fake blood capsules and Freddy Kreuger masks, it specialized in everyday clothing for women. Spirit Women’s Discount Apparel was the first business venture from California entrepreneur Joe Marver. When he noticed how much success the costume shop next door was having around Halloween, he decided to swap his regular apparel for costumes for a limited time in 1983. Sales were great, and the next year, he opened his first pop-up Spirit Halloween shop, which brought in $100,000 worth of revenue in just one month.

2. Spirit Halloween was purchased by Spencer’s in the late 1990s.

After building a business selling fart machines and other naughty items in shopping malls, Spencer Gifts entered the Halloween market. The retailer purchased Spirit Halloween in 1999 when the pop-up chain consisted of around 60 temporary locations. By Halloween 2018, Spencer’s had grown the operation to more than 1300 stores in the U.S. and Canada.

3. The retail apocalypse is good for Spirit Halloween's business.

Outside of Spirit Halloween store.
Mike Mozart, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

The rise of online shopping has led to many strip mall staples shuttering locations or going out of business for good. Spirit Halloween is an exception. That’s partly because all the abandoned big box stores dotting highways across America amount to more real estate options for the pop-up chain. By the end of 2019, 12,000 chain store locations are expected to shutter, and landlords are desperate to fill those spaces with paying tenants. That’s good news for Spirit Halloween—and bad news for any nostalgic Toys ‘R’ Us fans who don’t like to see their childhood toy shop selling fake severed heads.

4. Spirit Halloween starts scoping out locations in November.

The pop-up stores may only be open for a few months, but keeping the business running is a year-round operation. The day after Halloween—when many customers put their costumes away and start thinking about Thanksgiving menus and Christmas shopping lists—the realty team at Spirit starts hunting down locations for next season. Even though empty retail space is more plentiful than ever, negotiating lease deals with property owners can take months.

5. Spirit Halloween has donated millions to children’s hospitals.

When it’s not trying to terrify them, Spirit Halloween does heartwarming work for kids. In 2007, the company launched a charity initiative called Spirit of Children, and it’s since raised more than $50 million for pediatric hospital patients. The money donated by the charity helps supply toys, games, art programs, and pet therapy to sick kids. And during Halloween, Spirit gets children's hospitals into the season with costumes, decorations, and accessories.

6. Spirit Halloween products are available year-round.

Halloween decorations.
Mike Mozart, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

The pop-up shops close a few days after Halloween, but you don’t have to wait until next season to stock up on your favorite Spirit gear. Spirit Halloween’s online store operates January through December. That means you can start building your Halloween costume early—or you can find a non-Halloween related reason to dress up any time of year.

7. Spirit Halloween sells items for other holidays.

You may not find Christmas decorations in physical Spirit stores, but if you browse the online shop, you’ll see a whole section dedicated to holidays that aren’t Halloween. There are costumes and outfits for Easter, St. Patrick’s Day, and the Fourth of July, and the Christmas section even includes ornaments and inflatable lawn decorations. And because this is Spirit Halloween, many of the ornaments, like an axe-wielding elf and a corpse rising from the dead, come with a creepy twist.

8. Most Spirit Halloween shoppers wait until the last minute.

If it takes you all October to decide on a Halloween outfit, you’re not alone. Mary Leonard, the manager of a Spirit store in Virginia, told The Washington Post in 2018 that nearly 70 percent of its business happens in the two weeks leading up to Halloween.

How Mister Rogers Used King Friday to Make Friday the 13th Less Scary for Kids

Getty Images
Getty Images

King Friday XIII, son of King Charming Thursday XII and Queen Cinderella Monday, is an avid arts lover, a talented whistler, and a former pole vaulter. He reigns over Calendarland with lots of pomp and poise, and he’s usually correct.

Fans of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood may also remember that the monarch was born on Friday the 13th, because his birthday was celebrated on the program every Friday the 13th. Though the math isn’t perfect—according to Timeanddate.com, Friday the 13th sometimes happens two or three times a year—the heartwarming reason behind the unconventionally-timed birthday celebrations absolutely is.

Fred Rogers explained that he wanted to give children a reason to look forward to Friday the 13th, instead of buying into the negative superstitions that surround the dreaded date. “We thought, ‘Let’s start children out thinking that Friday the 13th was a fun day,’” he said in a 1999 interview. “So we would celebrate his birthday every time a Friday the 13th came.”

Rogers added that the tradition worked out so well partially because the show was broadcast live, and viewers knew to anticipate an especially festive episode whenever they spotted a Friday the 13th on the calendar.

Speaking of calendars: There’s an equally charming story behind the name Calendarland. In the same interview, Rogers disclosed that King Friday once asked children to write in with suggestions for his then-nameless country. One boy posited that since King Friday was named after a calendar date, his realm should be named after the calendar. Then, the lucky youngster was invited to the set, where King Friday christened him a prince of Calendarland.

King Friday might be king of Calendarland, but Mister Rogers is definitely the king of understanding how to make kids feel safe, smart, and special.

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