Image Copyright Jody Lindke 2012
What is it about human nature that makes us create holidays for even the most trivial of reasons? We have Fruitcake Toss Day, where we enshrine our rage at being sent an undesirable "treat" that will outlive mankind. There's the mildly disturbing International Hug Day which is less cynical than Fruitcake Toss Day, but encourages a kind of behavior that some might find inappropriate. If you type in any given day on the calendar, it is likely that there is some sort of holiday associated with it.
While some might argue that fake holidays are just a way for our corporate overlords to ensure we purchase crap we don't need that will only serve as landfill content, I'm not quite that cynical. I think the vast majority of silly holidays were created by people of particular interests who wanted to share their obsessions with others. In other words, these are the creations of geekdom. Every geek worthy of the title is familiar with "May the Fourth". It's the day where geeks forget that Star Wars premiered on May 25th, 1977 in order to celebrate a pun. "May the Fourth" is only one of a litany of holidays created by geek culture to celebrate our obsessions. Here are 10 more geek holidays, with some recommendations about how best to celebrate them.
1) GM Appreciation Day
In December of 2002, members of the EN World message boards suggested that the role playing game community set aside a day to show appreciation for the people who take the time to run games for others. It was eventually decided that this "holiday" would be called GM Appreciation Day and would be observed on March 4th. Since it's creation, the holiday has grown to become a major sale day for the online role playing game retailer RPGNow/DriveThruRPG where a number of publishers offer deep discounts for their products. The day came to have greater meaning with the death of Gary Gygax in 2008. What began as an arbitrary date came to have actual significance and provides an opportunity for gamers to thank not only their own GMs, but to thank one of the founders of the hobby.
Image Source GM Appreciation Day Website
While you should certainly take advantage of the various sales that take place on GM Appreciation Day to fill in any gaps in your RPG collection, you should also use it as an opportunity to run a game for your GMs. At minimum, you can use the opportunity to firmly commit to actually attending the gaming session on the day. GMs have enough work to do prepping their games week after week for your ungrateful enjoyment; the least you can do is show up on time and ready to play once a year.
What's that? There's a new Monte Cook RPG coming out this summer? Nevermind what I said about showing up. How about you get me a copy of The Strange and we'll call it even?
2) Talk Like a Pirate Day
What are the two most annoying things about September 19th? The first is that it marks the day that the PMRC testified in front of Congress about how rock music should be censored to "protect the children." The second is International Talk Like a Pirate Day. For quite some time, I have been advocating that people should celebrate "Play Like a Pirate Day" rather than participate in "Talk Like a Pirate Day." Who hasn't been annoyed by co-workers saying, "Aaaargh, Avast, Ye Mateys" a couple times an hour in some half-hearted participation? Even worse are the inconsistent uses of "Yar!" at random moments. It isn't that a day dedicated to acting out the role of a pirate is lame - what is lame is that these small offerings of participation are lackadaisical at best.
I would gladly champion a day in which workers show up to the office dressed in full "Age of Sail" apparel, blunderbuss and cutlass in hand, while staying in character as much as is possible for the day. It would be amazing fun in the "employees showing up to work in costumes on Halloween" kind of way. You know... like when a person comes to work in their full blown Optimus Prime costume - one where they can actually "transform" from robot to big rig - you are truly impressed with your co-workers commitment. On the other hand, when your other co-worker shows up with only a pair of "cat ears" on and a mild scowl on their face, it's annoying. Sadly, most participation in International Talk Like a Pirate Day is of the cat ear type, and not the Optimus Prime type.
For all the half-hearted role play, the slackers haven't made pirates any less cool. Celebrating "Piratitude" is still worth while, but I recommend you celebrate Talk Like A Pirate Day in true geek fashion by playing pirate themed games, reading pirate themed novels, or watching pirate themed films. Unless you are going to go full Jack Sparrow like the folks at Action Events LA ...then you can dress up.
3) H.P. Lovecraft's Birthday
Unlike with other authors, there is no official celebration of Howard Phillips Lovecraft's birthday on August 20th. This is a shame. Given his massive influence on popular culture, we ought to have a geek celebration around this master of the macabre. The man deserves some thanks, if only as reparation for the unending bad translations of his horror stories into film format. I propose that we celebrate H P Lovecraft Day by celebration the best of those things that his works have inspired.
Every H P Lovecraft Day should be filled with watching the silent version of The Call of Cthulhu, playing The Call of Cthulhu and Trail of Cthulhu RPGs, reading his fiction aloud, and visiting the venerable halls of Miskatonic (Brown) University's John Hay library to peruse the special collections. Maybe we can find that first edition of Unaussprechlichen Kulten and drive ourselves mad.
4) Edgar Allan Poe's Birthday
Source The Poe Museum
If you are a fan of genre fiction, then you are a fan of Edgar Allan Poe or someone he influenced. With the exception of modern action films, which owe a lot to James Fenimore Cooper, there isn't a genre that hasn't seen the influence of Edgar Allan Poe's writings. His Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket influenced Hermann Melville's Moby Dick, H P Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness, C L Moore's "Dust of the Gods," Jules Verne's An Antarctic Mystery, Roy and Dann Thomas's Young All-Stars comic book series, and Thomas Pynchon's Against the Day. That's just the tip of the iceberg of Poe's influence on pop culture, and not even one of Poe's more interesting legacies.
One of the most interesting of these legacies is a tradition that lasted for approximately 75 years, but ended abruptly in 2009. I am referring to the annual commemoration of Poe's life by the mysterious Poe Toaster. According the the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore:
Beginning in 1949 (or possible somewhat earlier), on the night of the anniversary of Poe's birth (as January 18th becomes January 19th), a mysterious stranger has entered this cemetery and left as tribute a partial bottle of cognac and three roses on Poe's grave.
This strange and beautiful annual tradition last occurred in January of 2009 and appears to sadly seems have ended forever. A number of "Faux Toasters" have tried to take up the mantle of the Poe Toaster, but the end of the official practice has led to a geek schism as to whether these neophytes should be allowed to restart a tradition that has potentially served its purpose. As magical as I think it would have been to witness the original Toaster or as interesting as it would be to see a new one, I think that it is time for this tradition to transcend the realm of secret spectacle and move into the houses of Poe fans everywhere. This January 18th to 19th, let us all raise a glass of cognac to a man who inspired so many different genres and without whom we geeks would have much less to enjoy.
5) Star Trek Day: The Day of First Contact
On April 5, 2063, the planet Earth was visited by an alien race called the Vulcans who had tracked the warp signature of an Earth ship called the Phoenix. While the Vulcans had a policy of non-intervention in developing worlds, a policy they would pass on to the United Federation of Planets, once a world had developed warp capability the policy shifted to one of engagement. Each year members of the UFP celebrate the Day of First Contact by eating pierogis, which were Zefram Cochrane's (the inventor of the Phoenix's warp drive) favorite food.
Modern-day fans of Star Trek can celebrate the day with games, readings, viewings, conventions, and treat the day as a countdown to a future occurrence. Star Trek fans have long been one of the most devoted fan groups and many communities feature STARFLEET chapters which are great places to make friends and do volunteer work in your local city. Casual fans can observe the day by watching their favorite Star Trek episodes.
For me, that means pulling out my DVD boxed set and queuing up "A Piece of the Action." I know some might find it heretical to have such a silly episode as a favorite, but to me "A Piece of the Action" has all the elements that make the Original Series so good. It touches on the consequences of violating the Prime Directive by demonstrating the real life and death results that can occur, it contains wonderful humorous moments between Kirk and Spock, and it was written by Gene L Coon. Besides, I think it's about time to figure out how to play Fizzbin.