Literary Holidays You Should Add To Your Calendar
Celebrate books and authors year-round
To be honest, I don’t know how I feel about this year. It feels like it was all a blur of uncomfortable headlines, aggressive arguments (how do you feel about punching Nazis?), and each day felt like a new opportunity for more bullshit to seep through the cracks. With everything going on, it’s comforting to know that the year is fairly close, so why not start looking forward to great positive gatherings of literary people? Here are literary holidays to look forward to!
December 24: Jolabokaflod
Every holiday season in Iceland, there is the Jolabokaflod, otherwise known as the “Christmas Book Flood.” From the last weeks of September up until early November, a majority of titles reach Iceland and become exciting presents. On Christmas Eve, everyone opens their presents and spends the rest of the night reading, which sounds much better than spending Christmas Eve arguing politics while sipping eggnog.
January 25: Burns Supper
Head to your local Scottish market to prepare for the Burns Supper! This haggis, whiskey, and poetry–centered feast is a moment to remember Robert Burns, a famous and beloved Scottish poet. The meal may be formal or informal, with the formal meal including a piper and several courses. A Burns Supper celebration will likely be attended by die-hard Burns fans, but it’s okay if you’re just there for the haggis and whiskey.
March 2nd: Dr. Seuss Day
Dr. Seuss Day is a day to remember a key foundational author and celebrate reading. Also known as National Read Across America Day, students will usually celebrate by wearing pajamas or wacky hats to school. It can be celebrated anywhere with the purpose of the holiday as a day of remembrance and nostalgia for the cornerstone of foundational literature.
April 23: La Diada de Sant Jordi (Saint George’s Day)
Also known as the “Day of Books and Roses,” Saint George’s Day in Spain involves a celebratory festival honoring the patron saint of Catalonia with a long-held literary tradition. Every year, on April 23rd, a rose is exchanged for a book between loved ones as the streets of Barcelona fill with stalls and special activities for the public such as workshops, recitals, traditional dances (sardanas), and human towers (castells).
May 20: Eliza Doolittle Day
“One day I’ll be famous! I’ll be proper and prim;
Go to St. James so often I will call it St. Jim!
One evening the king will say:
‘Oh, Liza, old thing,
I want all of England your praises to sing.
Next week on the twentieth of May
I proclaim ‘Liza Doolittle Day!‘”
Yes, My Fair Lady is musical theatre, but it’s based on George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion—plus, we need Eliza on this list to speak up against gender inequality and class prejudice. On May 20, we can honor her self-appointed holiday, and remember her through song, dance, and continuing to assert your presence when you are silenced.
June 16: Bloomsday
On Bloomsday, celebrate James Joyce’s Ulysses through pub crawls, reenactments, and readings. James Joyce chose June 16th because it was the first date with his future wife, Nora Barnacle, which ended pretty well for him, if you catch my drift. The real hardcore Joyce fans will read all of Ulysses out loud together, sometimes going longer than the day itself. The epicenter of the day is in Dublin, but many cities in the U.S., including Los Angeles, New York, Tulsa, and Wichita, take part in the celebration.
Mrs. Dalloway Day: A beautiful Wednesday in June
Finally, a holiday with some liberty. In June, pick a Wednesday that is particularly beautiful and celebrate Mrs. Dalloway Day. Take a walk around your city and listen to the way it communicates. Buy some flowers yourself. Maybe host a party at your house. Reveal in the simultaneous tranquility and chaos of a beautiful Wednesday in June!
July 4, 5, and 6: National Tom Sawyer Days
Don’t like Independence Day? Not a problem — there is now an option to celebrate National Tom Sawyer Days. Two days longer than Independence day, National Tom Sawyer Days celebrates a different yet still important historical setpiece. Fans of Mark Twain flock to his hometown, Hannibal, Missouri. There is much to do during these days of remembrance including a “frog long jump,” flea market, and a fireworks display over the Mississippi River on the Fourth of July, so you can still please those who wanted the fireworks show.
July 10: Clerihew Day
Make way for the poetry day! Clerihew Day is the light hearted day where we remember Edmund Clerihew Bentley, the creator of the four-line biographical poem. These poems are meant to be humorous and have the rhyme scheme of AA/BB with the person’s name in the first line. Celebrate the day by writing a poem about yourself or a friend and post it on twitter using the hashtag #clerihew…you never know if it’s the poem that’ll get you discovered.
July 13: “Odessa Reads. Odessa Is Read”
On Isaac Babel’s birthday this year, hundreds of voices were heard reading, spanning from the Literary Museum to the Opera house in Odessa. The literary scene in Odessa is small, yet thriving. This flash mob was a demonstration of the power of an underground literary scene. Although this only happened once in 2017, there is no reason to not expect its return next year on Isaac Babel’s birthday. You can celebrate in your city next year too! Bring out your favorite Babel text and read it in your language of choice.
July 16 to 21: Hemingway Days
Santa impersonators never take a vacation. In December they are Santa, and in the summer they are Ernest Hemingway. The biggest celebration happens in Key West, Florida where there are short story competitions, a 5k run, theatrical performances, and a look-alike contest. So mark your calendars for late July—you won’t want to miss the hundreds of Hemingways. If you can’t make it to Florida, host your own Hemingway Day. Costumes required.
September 22: Hobbit Day
Hobbit Day is the way Tolkien fans honor the birthdays of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins. Both were born on September 22nd but in different years. Those who honor the holiday stick to the text for reference on how to party with lots of food, and others go without shoes, the same way the hobbits used to roll. On a more academic note, some teachers will use this as an opportunity to integrate Tolkien into the curriculum — and you know they had been waiting all year for this.