6 Facts About International Women's Day

iStock.com/robeo
iStock.com/robeo

For more than 100 years, March 8th has marked what has come to be known as International Women's Day in countries around the world. While its purpose differs from place to place—in some countries it's a day of protest, in others it's a way to celebrate the accomplishments of women and promote gender equality—the holiday is more than just a simple hashtag. Ahead of this year's celebration, let's take a moment to explore the day’s origins and traditions.

1. International Women's Day originated more than 100 years ago.

German Communist leader Clara Zetkin (1857 - 1933), known as Red Clara, and a companion
German Communist leader Clara Zetkin with a companion.
General Photographic Agency, Getty Images

On February 28, 1909, the now-dissolved Socialist Party of America organized the first National Woman's Day, which took place on the last Sunday in February. In 1910, Clara Zetkin—the leader of Germany’s 'Women's Office' for the Social Democratic Party—proposed the idea of a global International Women's Day, so that people around the world could celebrate at the same time. On March 19, 1911, the first International Women's Day was held; more than 1 million people in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and Denmark took part.

2. The celebration got women the vote in Russia.

Women marching during the Russian Revolution in 1917, demanding the right to vote.
Women marching during the Russian Revolution in 1917, demanding the right to vote.
Keystone, Getty Images

In 1917, women in Russia honored the day by beginning a strike for "bread and peace" as a way to protest World War I and advocate for gender parity. Czar Nicholas II, the country's leader at the time, was not impressed and instructed General Khabalov of the Petrograd Military District to put an end to the protests—and to shoot any woman who refused to stand down. But the women wouldn't be intimidated and continued their protests, which led the Czar to abdicate just days later. The provisional government then granted women in Russia the right to vote.

3. The United Nations officially adopted International Women's Day in 1975.

International Women's Day demonstrations in Italy
International Women's Day demonstrations in Italy
iStock.com/GoodLifeStudio

In 1975, the United Nations—which had dubbed the year International Women's Year—celebrated International Women's Day on March 8th for the first time. Since then, the UN has become the primary sponsor of the annual event and has encouraged even more countries around the world to embrace the holiday and its goal of celebrating "acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities."

4. International Women's Day is an official holiday in dozens of countries.

Afghan women attend a ceremony to mark International Women's Day, on March 8, 2010 in Herat, Afghanistan
Women attend a ceremony to mark International Women's Day in Herat, Afghanistan.
Majid Saeedi, Getty Images

International Women's Day is a day of celebration around the world, and an official holiday in dozens of countries. Afghanistan, Cuba, Vietnam, Uganda, Mongolia, Georgia, Laos, Cambodia, Armenia, Belarus, Montenegro, Russia, and Ukraine are just some of the places where March 8th is recognized as an official holiday.

5. It's a combined celebration with Mother's Day in several places.

Celebrating International Women's Day with flowers and gifts
iStock.com/viktoriyabulyga

In the same way that Mother's Day doubles as a sort of women's appreciation day, the two holidays are combined in some countries, including Serbia, Albania, Macedonia, and Uzbekistan. On this day, children present their mothers and grandmothers with small gifts and tokens of love and appreciation.

6. Each year's festivities have an official theme.

International Women's Day March 8th
iStock.com/WD Stuart

In 1996, the UN created a theme for that year's International Women's Day: Celebrating the Past, Planning for the Future. In 1997, it was "Women at the Peace Table," then "Women and Human Rights" in 1998. They've continued this themed tradition in the years since; for 2019, it's "Better the balance, better the world" or #BalanceforBetter.

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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