Yule logs, gifts, loads of food, all the family round, that one weird family member who you don’t really remember; all things associated with December.
And yet they originated a long time before the Romans came along and actually named the month, rather unimaginatively, December which literally means “the tenth month”, though to be fair to the Romans most of the people they conquered had equally boring names for their months. The Anglo-Saxons called their December “the winter [month]”, so we didn’t really lose out on anything too fantastic.
December is the month of Christmas; let’s get that out of the way now, because there are some other great days to observe in December. There are much fewer food days, since we already know you’re eating, and a lot more days that let you act a little silly.
So enjoy this, the month of egg nogg and impaired driving prevention.
1st December – A Day With (Out) Art. The founding of this day coincided with the second annual World AIDS Day in 1989, when 800 art galleries around the US covered their exhibits and replaced them with information about HIV/AIDS and details about various HIV/AIDS charities. Since then artists have become integral to the day, producing art to help awareness, and to help people mourn the, as of 2015, 39 million people who have lost their lives to the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. There are an estimated 36.7 million people living with HIV/AIDS today, and without the treatment that charity work has helped to fund – the life expectancy of a person with the condition is just 11 years. Today you could educate yourself about AIDS or volunteer at a local HIV/AIDS charity.
2nd December – Mutt Day. Pure bred dogs can be plagued by a whole host of nasty congenital illnesses, Shar Peis, for example, can have a condition that causes their eyelashes to curl inwards, causing blindness, and are lucky to reach the age of 10. Thankfully, humans don’t interfere in every aspect of dog breeding, and so we have mutts, tiny little puppies born from passion rather than profit. Today is a day to find a lovely mongrel and tell him he’s a good boy, and will have a full life free from hip dysplasia (where the hips are displaced), epilepsy, and deafness. Of course, dogs only hear the “good boy” part, and that’s why we love them.
3rd December – Roof Over Your Head Day. Today is all about being grateful for the things in life we can take for granted, like, for instance, having a roof over your head. There are an estimated 100 million people who are homeless worldwide, that’s 1 out of every 65 people, and another billion people life in unsafe or insecure housing (such as squatters and refugees). With the festive season (be it Hanukkah, Christmas, Bodhi Day, or even Saturnalia) upon us, it’s important to remember the people who won’t be celebrating, because they don’t have access to the things we take for granted. Donate to, or volunteer at, a local homeless shelter today because, let’s face it, Santa is watching.
4th December – Dice Day. The Ancient Egyptians were known to use dice in 3000BC, in a game called Senet (though really, hieroglyphics are so hard to decipher that it could be called two reeds-eye-snake-grass for all we know). Dice have been excavated from The Royal Cemetery At Ur, a Mesopotamian burial site dating back to the 24th century BC, and it is theorized that dice originated in the Middle East, which isn’t too surprising when you realize that the Ancient Middle East is known as “the cradle of civilization”. Did you know that opposite sides of a six sided dice will always add up to 7? Play a game of chance today, and wow people with your keen observational skills, I won’t tell them you got that fact from a website.
5th December – Ninja Day. We’ve thought about the horrors in the world, and celebrated the humble dice, “but where are the fun days?” I hear you cry. Well cry no more, because it’s Ninja Day! Now, it’s important to address one glaringly wrong stereotype about ninjas: they don’t wear black. A ninja (or shinobi) was a covert agent or hitman in feudal Japan, and they dressed just like everyone else, in order to avoid detection. The ninjas you’re thinking of actually originated in Japanese theatre, when stage hands dressed in black would come on to the stage to carry out effects and move scenery around. Since all theatre requires some suspension of disbelief, it was customary for the audience to ignore the presence of those dressed in black. Western interpretations of this theatrical custom has led to the ninja we know and appropriate today. But enough history, watch a ninja movie, dress like a ninja, steal people’s cakes like a ninja, just make sure you’re stealthy.
6th December – Microwave Oven Day. From popping corn to reheating your dinner, microwave ovens have your back, and you don’t need to worry about accidentally burning yourself on the device itself, just the plates and cups that come out of it. The earliest attempts to cook food without fire happened in around 1922, but the microwave oven as we know it today was invented by Percy Spencer in 1945, after he noticed that the radar set he was using had melted a candy bar in his pocket. The first food intentionally cooked using a microwave was popcorn, the second was an egg, but that exploded, which is probably why you don’t get many bags of microwave eggs nowadays. So today you have the perfect excuse to microwave a big bag of popcorn and curl up with a nice movie, it’s honoring the inventiveness of the post WW2 world.
7th December – Cotton Candy Day. Believe it or not, a dentist invented the machine spun cotton candy that we love to rot our teeth with, but it was in 1897, and historically speaking, people are idiots. Yes, dentist William Morrison and candy maker John C. Wharton unveiled their “Fairy Floss” to the world in 1904, and it was an instant hit. The name “cotton candy” was coined by another man, Joseph Lascaux (another dentist!), who patented his newer and shinier sugar spinning machine in 1927. So enjoy a bag (or stick) of cotton candy today, but not too much, otherwise the dentists win.
8th December – Pretend To Be A Time Traveller Day. This delightful little holiday originates from a blog post in 2007, and has since become fairly popular in the western world. This day has rules: you can’t break character or tell anybody that you’re a time traveller. You can pretend to be from the future (good or bad) and run around looking confused at things like newspapers and watches, or even run up to someone and ask them the date, and when they tell you exclaim “There’s still time!” and run away. Or you can pretend to be from the past; dress in period clothes and stare wildly at cars and cell phones and greet people in archaic English. Either way, have a fun anachronistic day!
9th December – Weary Willie Day. Today honors the birth of Emmett Kelly, who invented the character of, you guessed it “Weary Willie”, the world’s first sad clown (or hobo clown depending on how mean you feel like being). Clowns can date their origins to 16th century Italy, and until 1931 they were your classic idiot, but that all changed when Emmett Kelly designed “Weary Willie” while working as a cartoonist. Often dressed in rags, with an upside down smile, Emmett’s creation was best known for doing things badly, like trying to sweep up spotlights only to have them move around. Now, in the fast paced world of fast cars and rock and roll music, a sad clown may just seem a little clichéd, but think of your favorite miserable funny people (also known as stand-up comics) and you will realize what a comedic revolution Mr. Kelly invented. You could go to the circus today, but clowns are creepy as hell, so I suggest just watching miserable people and laughing at them.
10th December – Dewey Decimal System Day. The Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC), also known as the Dewey Decimal System, was invented in 1876 by a librarian named Melvill Dewey, and it was revolutionary. For those of you who think it’s something to do with math, like myself, then please try to stay with me, it’s actually a universal library sorting system. Before Mr Dewey, libraries were ordered by the size, weight, and date of purchase of the books in the library, which made research even more difficult than it is today. Since its inception, the DDC has had 26 revisions, starting out as a pamphlet but growing to a full four volumes long! The DDC is used in over 135 countries, and divides knowledge into 10 classes (Computer Science, information & general works, Philosophy & Psychology, Religion, Social sciences, Language, Science, Technology, Arts & recreation, Literature, and History & Geography), each with another 10 divisions, and each of those divisions has 10 different sections. This universality allows anybody to walk into any of the over 200,000 libraries that used the DDC, armed with a number, let’s say 746.92; a little looking and you will have found yourself in the fashion design section (or shelf, depending on the size of the library). The DDC is online too, so you can find the number you need before you go all the way to the library. So go to the library today, armed with your knowledge of all the weird decimal numbers on the shelves.
11th December – UNICEF Birthday. Founded in 1946 to aid children and mothers suffering in countries torn apart by WW2. Originally named United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, they eventually expanded their charitable efforts to mothers and children in developing countries. Over time they dropped the worlds “international” and “emergency” and are just called the United Nations Children’s Fund, but they kept the acronym UNICEF, presumably because it sounds punchier that UNCF, which sounds more like the noise my uncle makes when he sits down. UNICEF receives two-thirds of their funding from the government, and the rest from private and public donors, and because they aren’t evil, at least 92% of their revenues are used to fund their charity work, which is a lot more than other charities. They continue to promote children’s health with community level projects all around the world, from vaccinations to teaching classes. Give some time, or even money today to celebrate 70 years of doing good. Think of the children, the sad ones, who don’t yell in the cinema.
12th December – Ding-A-Ling Day. No, it’s not a euphemism. Ding-A-Ling Day is all about calling friends and family that you haven’t spoken to in a while. Started in 1972 by Frank Hyle, who took an ad out in the local paper stating that for just $1, you could join the Ding-A-Ling Club. The response was 871 members, which, by my count, is about $850 for Mr Hyle, after he accounted for the price of the ad. The Ding-A-Ling Club would call friends and family members every year on this date. To this day, people still honor the 12th of December by calling distant friends and nearly forgotten loved ones. So pick up the phone today and let friends and family know that you haven’t forgotten them, you just suck at staying in contact.
13th December – Pick A Pathologist Pal Day. If you had wondered when our old friend Thomas Roy (and his lovely wife Ruth) would show up, wonder no more. Pick A Pathologist Pal Day encourages people to befriend a pathologist (somebody who studies all those samples the doctor makes you bring in) or even a coroner (somebody who analyses dead bodies, with saws and no sense of smell, preferably), because “you never know what might happen”. What the hell? Thomas Roy days are usually fun and light hearted, but now we have to make friends with people who test our blood and might have to cut us up in a week? Who benefits from this? Well, perhaps coroners and pathologists are very lonely. Either way, try to make friends with a pathologist today. I won’t advocate making friends with coroners, but that’s because it might be harder for them to posthumously cut you up if they had a coffee with you three days ago.
14th December – Bouillabaisse Day. Bouillabaisse is a traditional fish stew that originated in the port city of Marseille. Unlike most stews, which are served in a bowl with a spoon and maybe some bread to mop up the sauce if you’re posh, bouillabaisse is served in two parts, the broth first with cayenne pepper on toast and mayonnaise made from saffron (which is worth more than its weight in gold) eggs and garlic, and then the fish (no less than 3 different types) and the vegetables are served afterwards. Bouillabaisse was first invented by Marseille fisherman, who wanted, understandably, to eat after they got home from catching fish, but instead of using the fish they could sell, they threw all of the fish too bony to sell to restaurants into a pot. As the city of Marseille became more and more prosperous, other ingredients were added (like the saffron). Try this delicacy today, if only for the feeling of smugness I can only assume rich people get when eating food that costs more than my rent.
15th December – Cat Herders Day. A much sillier day from Thomas and Ruth Roy. Today we celebrate a simile, specifically the simile “my [job/life] is just like herding cats!”. If you’ve ever owned a cat, or scrolled through social media, you will know that getting one cat to do anything is damn nigh impossible, and trying to herd a bunch of them would be enough to bring even a monk to frustrated angry tears. Spare a thought for those with the truly tedious and impossible tasks instead of lives; people with small children, too many pets, perhaps an ill relative to look after, even the ill relative. Try and lessen the burden for people having a hard time.
16th December – Chocolate Covered Anything Day. Strawberries, cakes, marshmallows, bacon, and phone books are all things you can improve by covering in chocolate today, though probably not that last one. Chocolate Covered Anything Day means anything, and while the creators of this day may have only been talking about food, I challenge you to cover something truly weird with chocolate. But please, no people, it’s not Chocolate Covered Anyone Day.
17th December – Maple Syrup Day. Like the humble taco, maple syrup was eaten by indigenous peoples long before European settlers came to the Americas and stole everything, so we only have a few oral histories and a bit of archaeological evidence of its use, rather than a nice neat history recorded by monks or particularly precocious explorers. Until the 1930’s, North America was the world’s largest producer of maple syrup, until Canada overtook them. 75% of the world’s maple syrup comes from the Quebec region of Canada. It’s probably best to eat today’s treat with pancakes or waffles, no good can come of gulping down a whole bottle like that scene from Super Troopers… unless you want to be all that is man, of course.
18th December – Answer The Telephone Like ‘Buddy The Elf’ Day. This delightful day is a reference to the Will Ferrell film Elf, about a human boy who hitched a ride with Santa to the North Pole and was raised amongst the elves. Instead of the old dreary Victorian term for expressing surprise (that’s right, saying “hello” on the phone was started by Thomas Edison, who was so surprised that Alexander Graham Bell’s invention worked, he couldn’t say the official telephone greeting “Ahoy-hoy” and instead kept exclaiming “hello”), today you get to answer the phone by saying: “Buddy the Elf, what’s your favorite color?”
19th December – Hard Candy Day. Hard candy is often thought to be a sweet for old people, and if your taste buds had deteriorated as much as someone in their 70s, you’d enjoy pure sugar and flavoring too, ungrateful child. Hard candies are often used as cough sweets, but there is a type of hard candy that was invented to convince the king Christian V of Denmark (b.1646-d.1699) to take his medicine, proving that royalty really do get everything handed to them. Eat some boiled sweets today, though not too many since they are on average 98% sugar.
20th December – Sangria Day. Since it’s the festive season, and not everybody abstains from alcohol at this time of year, I give you Sangria Day. Sangria is a Spanish drink consisting of red wine sweetened with orange juice and sugar, and a whole mess of chopped fruit mixed in. The fruits can include, but are not limited to, melon, pineapple, peaches, berries, and apples. If alcohol isn’t your thing then you could make a non-alcoholic version, using grape juice instead of the fermented variety. On the official origin of Sangria, allow me to direct you to the SAGE Encyclopedia of Alcohol, which states “Little is known of the origin of Sangria expect that it is Spanish…” that was really informative, thanks.
21st December – Phileas Fogg Win A Wager Day. A day to celebrate literature (one of my personal favorites). Many of you may know the name Phileas Fogg, but you may not know that he is the main character in Jules Verne’s classic novel Around the World in 80 Days, who bets that he can travel round the world in a hot air balloon in – you guessed it – 80 days. The wager is for £20,000 (about $2 million in today’s money), so Phileas Fogg sets off on October 2nd and is due back at his clubhouse on – you guessed it again!- December 21st. I won’t tell you if he made it, to celebrate today, start reading Around the World in 80 Days and find out for yourselves.
22nd December – Date Nut Bread Day. We eat bread every day, sometimes without even thinking about it (it’s a BLT not a BBLT), but today is all about date nut bread, a bread filled with dates and the nut of your choosing. Dates are an excellent source of potassium and nuts are nature’s healthy snack, so in anticipation of all the food comas you’re likely to suffer in the coming days, take some time to make yourself this healthy treat (you could even add cinnamon and chocolate to make it tastier).
23rd December – Pfeffernusse Day. A pfeffernusse is a type of tiny cookie, usually spiced with cinnamon, cloves and anise. They are served around Christmas time in Germany, and have been traditionally associated with the feast of Sinterklaas (the feast of St. Nicholas who, if you didn’t already know, is Santa Claus) in the Netherlands. They are around the size of a nut, which is handy since the name literally translates as “pepper nut”, but often contain no nuts. Instead, you’re supposed to eat them by the handful like you would with nuts. If you can’t find any in your local shops, then get online and find a recipe and get making! What’s the point of horrible, dark winter nights if you can’t make your house smell like the cinnamon jar exploded?
24th December – Eggnog Day. Eggnog is, essentially, thin alcoholic custard. There are about fifty different explanations for its name, which was first seen in newspapers in 1788, in the New-Jersey Journal. However, the drink itself has been around since 1695, and was originally called an Egg Flip, “flip” being the term the English coined for a drink that had to be mixed together referring to the practice of “flipping” the drink between two jugs. So, if you take your nog with a dash of brandy, half the drinks cupboard, or even without dairy, grab yourself some eggnog today. Hanukkah begins today, if you didn’t already know.
25th December – A’phabet Day or No “L” Day. Read today’s name out loud. Hear that? It’s a pun! Please stop groaning. Yes today is the birthday of that bearded fellow from Nazareth. But, did you know that one of the many reasons Christians celebrate Christmas on the 25th December is because it is nine months after the date of his death. According to ancient beliefs founded on, I don’t know, divine knowledge or something, a righteous man would die on the date of his conception, and nine months after Easter is (you guessed it) December 25th. So know you know one of the reasons for Jesus’ birthday; most of the other reason are basically: “well the [Pagans/Romans/Celts/Heathens] celebrate in the winter, why not us?”.
26th December – Candy Cane Day. The curved part of a candy cane is called a “warble” and the straight part is called the “strabe”, and both parts are absolutely delicious. These Christmas decorations/tasty snacks are rooted in the wish to keep children quiet, seriously. In 1670, fed up with children making the church so noisy during mass, a choirmaster asked a local candy maker to make sweet sticks that would keep their mouths busy. In order to make them “holy”, the choirmaster asked the sweet maker to add a crook on the top of the sticks, so he could relate the sweets to the nativity. Spite, it’s the best motivator.
27th December – Fruitcake Day. Fruitcake, it’s cake full of fruits! In the case of alcoholic fruitcake, it can last for several years, which would explain its popularity before home refrigerators were a thing. Since the 1960’s though, the humble fruitcake has been widely ridiculed and ignored, despite it being integral to many winter celebrations around the world. Eat some fruitcake today; it’s still mostly sugar, so your holiday gorging won’t suffer.
28th December – Card Playing Day. There isn’t much information about the origin of this day, but it’s safe to say that around about now the children are bored of their presents and everybody is sick of each other, so to break with the tedium crack open a pack of cards. Playing cards were invented in Imperial China, somewhere between 618-907AD. The suits for playing cards vary, the French suits (Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs, and Spades) we already know, the traditional Spanish suits are Cups, Coins, Clubs, and Swords, and the traditional German suits are Acorns, Hearts, Bells, and Leaves. There are literally hundreds of cards games you can play with family and friends today, but I can’t condone gambling, so be sly about it.
29th December – Tick Tock Day. Another Thomas Roy gem, Tick Tock Day was founded to remind us that there are only two days left of this year, so if you have anything to get done, the clock is ticking! It could be a school or work assignment, some housework that you’ve been putting off, basically anything that you don’t want hanging over your head come the new year. So hop to it!
30th December – Bacon Day. Ah the internet, you know how much the internet loves bacon, in fact, they love it so much that in 2011 bacon sales soared so high that economists dubbed it “bacon mania”, and I’m not even kidding. Now, if you keep a kosher or halal diet, this day may seem fairly exclusionary, but there are plenty of “facon” products out there for you to sample. Bacon makes everything better, it is known.
31st December – Make Up Your Mind Day. On the last day of the year we are encouraged to make our big decisions in the form of resolutions. If there’s anything that has been on your mind, anything that has been bothering you, take today to try and think through the dilemma, and try to choose a suitable course of action. Doing it on the last day of the year ensures that you don’t carry any of these worries through to the New Year, although if the news is anything to go by, a mere day is not enough to fix the world, but it’s a start.