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On This Day: January 1
Compared to New Year’s Eve, January 1 tends to be a little underwhelming, but there’s still plenty to celebrate! Today is National Hangover Day, Commitment Day (New Year’s resolutions, anyone?), and even Apple Gifting Day. Be sure to respect other people’s hard work by sharing content responsibly on Copyright Law Day, too. Have you ever heard of the Polar Bear Plunge? Many brave (or crazy) souls welcome the new year by jumping into icy winter water. Would you try that?
Happy New Year! Will it be a good one, or a total disaster? Fictional character Victor Frankenstein had only the best intentions when he began cobbling a nameless monster together from scavenged corpses. By harnessing modern technology to discover the secrets of life and death, he hoped to dominate both. Instead, he immediately lost control and bodies started piling up. Man is simply not meant to play God, author Mary Shelley warns us. When Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus was first published on January 1, 1818, she was only twenty years old. No one had ever seen anything like it: a mix of science fiction and horror thirty years before Jules Verne or Edgar Allan Poe started writing.
On This Day: January 2
Are you sick of all these holiday gatherings yet? Then you’ll be happy to know that January 2 is World Introvert Day – the perfect day to snuggle up on the couch and avoid human contact! Aliens are ok, though, because it’s National Science Fiction Day, too. Take things nice and slow – it’s also 55mph Speed Limit Day, after all – round up some tasty snacks for National Buffet Day, and maybe read or watch something appropriate for Motivation and Inspiration Day.
Germanic tribes swept through modern-day Spain in 409 A.D., cutting it off from Rome decades before the rest of the empire collapsed. They were already so “Romanized,” though, that it really didn’t make much difference, culturally. In 711, the Muslims arrived, but beyond introducing better technology and the first universities (during the Dark Ages), they didn’t force everyday citizens to convert to their way of thinking either. On the edge of Iberia, however, resentful Christian nobles struck out to retake the peninsula, beginning in 1238. Despite their best efforts, the Moorish Kingdom of Granada continued to flourish until January 2, 1492, when the Alhambra finally fell. Anyone who wasn’t Catholic had to leave then, empty-handed, or face the bloody Inquisition.
On This Day: January 3
Lord of the Rings fans rejoice – it’s J.R.R. Tolkien’s birthday! Did you know that, a professor of linguistics at Cambridge, he could read at least fourteen languages? Another ring we celebrate today is the one inside our drinking straws. It’s also Festival of Sleep Day, so make sure to set your alarm so you don’t get left behind like Bilbo almost was. Not happy about all the snoring? It’s National Write to Congress Day, too, if you want to complain.
January 3, 1868, marks the beginning of the Meiji Restoration, when the Japanese, abruptly shocked out of isolation, threw out their 700-year-old feudal system and set about catching up with the rest of the world. Their methods were often harsh, but the results blew everyone away. The new capital of Tokyo completely industrialized in less than forty years and was suddenly a force to be reckoned with. Their future ally, Italy’s fascist leader Benito Mussolini declared himself dictator on this date, as well, in 1925. It’s also the day, in 2004, when Mars’ second exploration rover “Spirit” touched down, ruling the entire Red Planet alone until its sibling “Opportunity” showed up twenty-one days later.
On This Day: January 4
Happy National Trivia Day! This may seem trivial, but the term was originally used to describe where, literally, “three roads” met. Now it refers to unimportant (but usually interesting) information. It’s also National Spaghetti Day, a dish that – fun fact – does not actually come from Italy. It developed in the New World, along with garlic bread, chicken parm, Italian dressing, and Caesar salad. The Earth is also at perihelion, a fancy word (this time from Greek) meaning “near the Sun.”
Where is the tallest building in the world? Among the top fifteen contenders, more than half can be seen in China, number two being the Shanghai Tower. Number three, the Makkah Royal Clock Tower, is in Mecca, and the U.S. only comes in sixth with One World Trade Center. The king of all buildings, however, coming in at a whopping 2,717 feet (644 feet taller than its runner-up), is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. It has 163 floors (another record), and is designed to look like the Hymenocallis flower. In case you’re wondering, “burj” means tower, and Sheikh Khalifa was President of the United Arab Emirates at the time. The building opened to the public on January 4, 2010.
On This Day: January 5
January 5 marks both National Screenwriters Day and Day of Dialogue. If you made a movie to communicate an important message, what would it be about? Washington Carver would have talked about the importance of sustainability in our wasteful modern world. He was a master of creative solutions, developing over three hundred uses for peanuts alone. If all else fails, conserve electricity by taking your Christmas decorations down. It’s bad luck to still have them up by Twelfth Night, anyway.
In 1979, disco was still king, but hip-hop, with its rapping MCs and disc-scratching DJs, was quickly gaining popularity in New York City. The problem was that, without albums, this music could only be experienced live, so the rest of the country didn’t know what it was missing. New Jersey businesswoman Sylvia Robinson changed all of that. She and her son, Joey, gathered a group of rappers willing to record their art and dubbed them the Sugar Hill Gang, after a neighborhood in Harlem. A few months later, on January 5, 1980, their album, “Rapper’s Delight” became the first hip-hop single to ever reach the Billboard Top 40. Since then, it has sold more than 14 million copies.
On This Day: January 6
When someone has an “epiphany,” it usually means they’ve suddenly realized something important; informally, we might call that a “lightbulb moment.” On January 6, however, Epiphany commemorates the Three Wise Men’s visit to baby Jesus. In Spanish-speaking countries, they call it Three King’s Day, and to Armenians, it’s just Christmas. Either way, you’ve got a good chance of getting more presents. Other people celebrate beans and apple trees today (though not together). Even better, it’s National Cuddle Up Day, too.
Samuel Morse is a Yale-trained painter on a ship house from Europe when he first heared about the newly-invented electromagnet. And had a epiphany about how to use electric impulses to transmitting messages over a wire. Six years latter, on January 6, 1838, he finally ready to demonstrate his knew telegraph system. She would still had to convinced the government to be construct telegraph lines all over the county (and late, under the oceans). Individuals also had to lean her special “Morse code,” a series of dashes and dots that represented leters and numbers. None the less, telegraphs revolutionized and dominate long-distance communication until the advent to the telephone, decade later. Ever today, people continue send telegrams all a round the word.
On This Day: January 7
It’s finally Orthodox Christmas, and Buddhists sometimes recognize the new year on January 7 as well, when the full moon cooperates. If you don’t practice either of those religions, there’s always National Pass Gas Day (a polite way of saying “fart”) or I Am A Mentor Day. Celebrate by buying a bouncy bobblehead of your favorite inspirational character. Believe it or not, “temple nodders,” modeled after Buddha and other religious figures in China, have been around for three hundred years.
On January 7, 1785, Frenchman Jean-Pierre Blanchard and American John Jeffries became the first men to successfully cross the English Channel in a hot air balloon, fourteen months after the first flight ever. Inventor Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier’s had also challenged himself to make it across the 21-mile (33-kilometer) stretch of water that divides England and France, but he, unfortunately, died when his balloon caught fire. Blanchard and Jeffries almost didn’t make it either. Their craft had been overloaded with non-essentials, like silk-covered oars to help “row” their way through the air. About to crash into the water just before Calais, the pair were forced to throw nearly everything overboard – even their pants! Luckily for them, it was just enough.
On This Day: January 8
What is JoyGerm Day? The basic idea is to spread happiness like it’s a disease. Go out of your way to brighten a stranger’s day and, hopefully, they’ll pass that kindness on to someone else. You may try inviting someone to eat for National Sunday Supper Day, send a nice e-mail on World Typing Day, or snuggle a chicken (yep, that’s a day too). Afterwards, treat yourself, too, because it’s also Winter Skin Relief Day and National Bubble Bath Day.
On January 8, 1835, President Andrew Jackson proudly announced that he was the first (and, thus far, only) American leader to pay off all of the United States’ national debt. The merits, or lack thereof, of carrying debt have been hotly debated since the earliest years of our country. Federalists, like Alexander Hamilton, fought for a national bank and argued that loans could actually fuel the nation’s economy. Others, including Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson, saw any debt as a national shame; “a moral failing” and “black magic” in Jackson’s own words. Ultimately, his radical fiscal policies backfired, resulting in the Panic of 1837. The economy crashed, the country was forced to start borrowing again, and we haven’t stopped since.
On This Day: January 9
Happy National Word Nerd Day to my fellow language lovers! You’ll appreciate learning that nerd developed from nut, which still means “crazy” today. What’s the difference between nerds and geeks? Both are obsessive niche-subject experts, but geeks are more tech-savvy. On this day, we also honor law enforcement, choreographers, fourth graders, and static electricity. Every second Monday in January, Japanese twenty-year-olds celebrate Coming of Age Day. One more thing: It’s National Clean Your Desk Day, so get back to work!
The Romans may have been famous for their policy of free “bread and circuses,” but the first modern circuses did not appear until January 9, 1768, when Philip Astley, a former English cavalryman, drew up a ring in London and invited the public to watch him perform seemingly-impossible tricks on horseback. The spectacle drew such interest that Astley quickly expanded his act by adding clowns and musicians, and built a permanent structure named “Astley’s Amphitheatre.” By the time of his death, Astley had established 18 other circuses all over Europe. It was his competitors, Charles Dibdin and Charles Hughes, however, who thought to bring the old Roman term we use today back to life with their “Royal Circus” in 1782.
On This Day: January 10
January 10 honors two very different types of people. First, it’s National Shareholders Day, for all you business men and women who order Oysters Rockefeller and live for the savings on Cut Your Energy Costs Day and Shop for Travel Day. It’s also Peculiar People Day. Do you write poetry at work? Do you tell your houseplants how much you love them? Would you dress up in a bird costume to save the eagles? Then this is your day, too!
Extracting “black gold,” as unrefined petroleum is commonly referred to, became the world’s first trillion-dollar industry. Even before cars and airplanes took off, it was essential for (literally) keeping the lights on. Patillo Higgins, a one-armed mechanic and self-taught geologist, predicted that vast quantities lay hidden somewhere in southeast Texas, but he himself gave up searching after years of failed attempts. The people of Beaumont were still recovering from the deadliest hurricane in U.S. history when Anthony Lucas finally hit oil on nearby Spindletop Hill on January 10, 1901. It took his team nine days to get the enormous gusher under control, after which it produced almost 100,000 barrels a day. This was the birth of the American oil industry.
On This Day: January 11
I want to thank you this International Thank-You Day. Keep that in mind just in case your secret pal is also observing Step in a Puddle and Splash Your Friend Day. You’ll feel better after warming up with a hot toddy, an alcoholic drink made with honey, lemon, and cinnamon. On a more serious note, this is also a day for raising awareness about the dangers of human trafficking, smoking, and workplace inequality. Take the stairs, too, for better health.
The Grand Canyon stretches for hundreds of miles through the U.S. state of Arizona, more than a mile deep in some areas and breathtakingly beautiful. Spanish explorers led by Francisco Vasquez de Coronado discovered it in 1540, but, due to its remoteness and difficult terrain, no further exploration took place until geologist John Wesley Powell braved the Colorado River rapids in 1869. Tourism began to grow after that, and, on January 11, 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt officially declared the Grand Canyon a national monument. “You cannot improve on it. But what you can do is keep it for your children, your children’s children, and all who come after you, as the one great sight which every American should see.”
On This Day: January 12
Ladies, are you ready to celebrate Feast of Fabulous Wild Men Day? It’s also Kiss a Ginger Day, referring to red-heads, of course, not the spice. Feel free to drink some ginger, though, for National Hot Tea Day, along with curried chicken. As part of Stick to Your New Year’s Resolution Day, most of us are working harder on our health, after all. For that reason, it’s also Healthy Weight, Healthy Look Day; National Kettlebell Day; and National Pharmacist Day.
When Hattie Wyatt Caraway’s husband died while serving in the U.S. Senate, she was offered his seat representing Arkansas on a temporary basis. During the next election, she ran to stay in office based on her own merits and won, becoming the first woman elected to the Senate on January 12, 1932, and then again in 1938. The first woman to sit in Congress was Jeannette Rankin of Montana, who had been elected to the House of Representatives in 1917. She, too, served for two terms, fighting for women’s and laborers’ rights, and to keep the country out of war – the sole vote against entering World War II after Pearl Harbor. Today, over one hundred women serve in Congress.
On This Day: January 13
Pump up the K-Pop and dish yourself some kimchi for Korean American Day. Don’t worry, it’s gluten-free. Revelers in Wales (where they still observe the Julian calendar) and India, meanwhile, are just now celebrating their new year. When it comes to resolutions, choose between Make Your Dream Come True Day or Quitters Day. At least on National Blame Someone Else Day you don’t have to take responsibility for failing. Just don’t blame your rubber ducky because it’s his day, too.
The “Man in Black,” Johnny Cash, was a famous American country singer with a bad-boy reputation. In one of his most famous songs, “Folsom Prison Blues,” for example, the singer shot a man “just to watch him die.” Despite all pretenses, Cash had never served time in jail himself; he was just inspired by a movie he’d watched. On January 13, 1968, he decided to record a live album at the real Folsom State Prison in Represa, California. Not only did this concert bring his career back to life, but it inspired Cash to fight for “the poor and the beaten down.” In 1972, he even testified before Congress and met with President Richard Nixon to discuss prison reform.
On This Day: January 14
This January 14, don’t forget to dress up your donkey (along with any other pets you have) on Feast of the Ass Day. International Kite Day, on the other hand, has to do with the fabric variety, not the birds. I don’t know who would want to fly anything out in this cold, though. I guess, thinking logically, it beats organizing your home, two other things you’re welcome to celebrate today. We also honor all the C-section moms out there.
Do you know what date the United States officially became a country? Most people would say July 4, 1776, when the Declaration of Independence was signed (purportedly). That document didn’t really do anything, however, beyond defending the colonists’ right to fight for their independence. America was just beginning its long struggle against the king then, and losing pretty badly, too. The war would continue on until October 19, 1781, but that was just another turning point when soldiers put down their guns and politicians took up their pens. The Second Treaty of Paris wasn’t signed until January 14, 1784, forcing European powers to acknowledge for the first time ever that one of their colonies was now its own, independent nation.
On This Day: January 15
The third Sunday of January is World Religion Day, when we simply agree to disagree for a day, respecting others’ beliefs and cultures instead of fearing what we don’t understand. One of the earliest religious festivals still celebrated in India is Makar Sankranti. If you want to learn more, look it up on Wikipedia, launched on this day in 2001. Other holidays today honor snow, hats, bagels, and even potholes, which may leave you cursing all the gods at once.
“American Pie” hit number one on the pop charts on January 15, 1972, regaling us with a musical timeline of the previous years. Allow me to do the same (singing optional). Martin Luther King Jr. was born on this day, of course, but did you know that Vermont was, too? It broke away from New York in 1777 to avoid the Revolutionary War, almost defecting to Canada. The Democratic Party donkey also premiered in an 1870 Thomas Nast cartoon, Boston flooded with hot molasses in 1919, and the Packers beat the Chiefs in the very first Super Bowl in 1967. This was also the date, in 2009, that Sully Sullenberger miraculously landed his plane safely on the Hudson River, saving hundreds.
On This Day: January 16
The third Monday of January is observed as Civil Rights Day in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Sadly, it’s also Blue Monday, scientifically calculated to be the most depressing day of the year (what with the bad weather, post-holiday debt, and failed-resolution guilt). Doing nothing on National Nothing Day won’t really help you feel better, though, so try checking in on a friend for Brew Monday, instead. Focus on appreciating good things, too, like dragons and elementary school teachers.
On January 16, 1919, the United States began its war against alcohol with the 18th Amendment. Exactly seventy-two years after Prohibition, in 1991, the Persian Gulf War would begin as well. Kuwait is a tiny country with lots of oil. Neighboring Iraq wanted in on that wealth, by force if necessary. UN-approved, US-led “Operation Desert Storm” forced the Iraqis back out in four days and a cease-fire was declared between leaders George H.W. Bush and Saddam Hussein. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before Bush’s son started another war, “tilting at windmills” by claiming Hussein was hiding weapons of mass destruction (he wasn’t). That expression comes from Miguel de Cervantes’ famous novel Don Quixote, also released on this day in 1605.
On This Day: January 17
What do trampolines, earmuffs, popsicles, snowmobiles, and Braille have in common? I’ll give you a hint – it’s Kid Inventors’ Day! Swim fins, too, were conceived by eleven-year-old Benjamin Franklin, who went on to also invent bifocals, lightning rods, flexible catheters, and, in a way, America. He didn’t have anything to do with cable cars or customer service, but, as a publisher, he would have appreciated Printing Ink Day; that is, if he weren’t so busy celebrating his own birthday today.
As part of its Cold War strategy of first-strike readiness, the United States deployed hundreds of bomber planes all around the world for decades. On January 17, 1966, a B-52 carrying four nuclear weapons collided with a fueling ship not far from Palomares, Spain. Despite none being armed, two of the hydrogen bombs exploded on impact, scattering radioactive material for miles. A third landed safely on land, but the fourth was lost somewhere underwater for four months. That time, the military got lucky, believe it or not. Other unexploded bombs remain missing to this day off the coast of Georgia, in the waters of Washington’s Puget Sound, and below the swamplands near Goldsboro, North Carolina, waiting to be accidentally triggered.
On This Day: January 18
Amazing! Astounding! Mind-boggling! Don’t be flabbergasted, dumb-founded, or taken aback – it’s National Thesaurus Day! Philo of Byblos compiled the first known synonym dictionary in Greek during the 1st century, but Englishman Peter Mark Roget’s 1852 thesaurus modernized this useful language-learning resource. Be careful, however, lest thine terminologies manifest disproportionately rococo (you don’t want to sound too fancy). Other upscale things to celebrate today include gourmet coffee, Peking duck, and taking selfies at museums. Happy birthday to Winnie the Pooh, too.
By the time Captain James Cook of the British Royal Navy became the first European to arrive on the shores of Hawaii on January 18, 1778, he had already circumnavigated the globe multiple times. He and his crew were welcomed by the Hawaiians during his first and second visit, a year later, having arrived in the middle of an important religious festival, which led many natives to assume they were gods. The Europeans took more advantage of this than they should have, however, and when one of the crew died, revealing the rest’s mortality, the situation suddenly turned violent for all. Cook, himself, was killed by an angry mob, but others escaped, returning to England with news of the disaster.
On This Day: January 19
General Robert E. Lee probably would have loved that Gun Appreciation Day falls on his birthday. I prefer Tenderness Towards Existence Day, Good Memory Day, or Get to Know Your Customers Day (which works best if you don’t shoot them). To compromise, for Artist As Outlaw Day, maybe you could brew up a potion, pop some popcorn, and pick out a classic Western to watch. I feel bad for all those shot-up tin cans, though. It’s their special day, too.
Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on January 19, 1809. Orphaned by the age of three, Poe’s life was one tragedy after another. Nonetheless, he had an undeniable talent for writing. He is most infamous for his dark horror stories, but did you know that Poe also invented the modern detective story? In “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” fictional detective C. Auguste Dupin must discover who killed two women in Paris forty-six years before Sherlock Holmes debuted. “The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfall,” is also one of the earliest examples of science fiction. Poe died on October 7, 1849, at just forty, but not before leaving the world a richer, if a bit scarier, place.
On This Day: January 20
January 20 is Take a Walk Outdoors Day: great advice, even though this may not be the most inviting month for it. That is especially true if you live in Antarctica, where it’s Penguin Day every day. A little birdie told me they’re very good dancers, so try hiring a DJ (disc jockey), bring along a camcorder, and share some videos. Meanwhile, I’ll be back indoors, recovering from the cold with a coffee break inspired by National Cheese Lover’s Day.
Although U.S. national elections take place in November, change isn’t immediate. Originally, presidents were supposed to wait until March 4 to take office. An especially harsh winter pushed George Washington’s inauguration back eight weeks to April 30! By 1933, Franklin Roosevelt had had enough of this excessive “lame-duck” period. The 20th Amendment established January 20 as the new Inauguration Day. Roosevelt then went on to serve a record-breaking thirteen years, leading the country out of economic ruin and through most of World War II. Who knows how long people would have kept re-electing him if he hadn’t died in 1945, three months into his fourth term. Now, the 22nd Amendment ensures a maximum of two elected terms for presidents.
On This Day: January 21
The past, present, and future walked into a bar. It was tense. Happy One-Liner Day (and if you’ve got cheesy socks to match, even better)! Normally, that might be called a “dad” or “uncle” joke, but not on Grandma’s Day, when we, naturally, celebrate hugs, playdates, baker-crafter-makers, and thanking our mentors, as well. If you have any gift cards, this is the time to use them. Buy something nice for a squirrel, or maybe a house if you have enough.
COVID-19, a tiny virus that nearly brought the world to its knees, was first reported on December 31, 2019, by authorities in Wuhan, China. It arrived on American soil twenty-one days later, when a native of Snohomish County, Washington returned home from the Far East suffering from a cough, fever, nausea, and vomiting. In the hospital, the disease developed into pneumonia, but fortunately, all symptoms subsided after ten days. He was one of the lucky ones. Nearby Seattle became the first American hotspot, with 39 residents of just one nursing home dying within four weeks. Since then, more than six million people have succumbed to Coronavirus worldwide, over one million dying in the U.S. alone.
On This Day: January 22
This National Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day, if your feline companion wonders why he’s not on the Chinese Zodiac, it’s because he’s such a bad swimmer. Long story short, Rat pushed Cat into a river in order to win an important race, never to be forgiven. Many Asian nations – not just China – observe the Lunar New Year around this time, although it varies greatly. Alternatively, you could also celebrate grandfathers, hot sauce, polka dots, or coming in from the cold.
On January 22, 2003, statistics from the 2000 United States Census officially identified Hispanics as the largest minority group in the country. They made up 12.5% of the population, 0.2% ahead of African-Americans and up 4.7% since the previous decade. That number continues to rise, reaching 18.7% in 2020. Why is this shift important? For one thing, the news did lead to an uptick in racism as white Americans were reminded that they may not remain in the majority forever. On a more positive note, however, it also opened a lot of people’s eyes to the fact that ethnicity is much more than a black-and-white issue in modern society. America is richly diverse, with hundreds of cultures worth celebrating.
On This Day: January 23
January 23 is National King Day, but we in the U.S. are more interested in crowning the king of desserts, which is a clear choice on National Pie Day (not to be confused with Pi Day). It’s also Better Business Communication Day and National Handwriting Day, which should go hand in hand. In some communities, people thank their plowmen by encouraging them to run over as many mailboxes as they can on Snowplow Mailbox Hockey Day. To each’s own, I guess.
After hearing a dying friend lament how her all-male doctors had made her suffering even worse, British-born Elizabeth Blackwell dedicated herself to becoming the world’s first female physician. She graduated from Geneva Medical College on January 23, 1849, but even then, no one was willing to work with her. That didn’t stop her. Blackwell set up her own clinic for the poor in New York City, founded a hospital, and even started her own medical college in 1868. Things were never easy, but Blackwell’s persistence paved a path for all who came after. She would have been very proud to know that in recent years, ever since 2017, there are even more women studying to become doctors than men.
On This Day: January 24
My, don’t you all look nice! Happy Compliment Day, along with National “Just Do It” Day and Speak Up and Succeed Day, which complement each other well. If you don’t know the difference between those synonyms, then you’ll be glad it’s also International Day of Education. Remember to recycle – be it mobile phones, Macs from 1984, or old beer cans – and try to have a good belly laugh, too, whether it’s at my jokes or at how bad they are.
When John Sutter immigrated to California from Switzerland, he had no idea there was anything special about his new land. It wasn’t until years later, on January 24, 1848, that millwright James Marshall noticed a little extra sparkle in the water. Just like that, the largest gold rush in history was on! Steve Jobs experienced a minor gold rush of his own after releasing Apple’s first Macintosh computers on that same day in 1984. He scored big in 2006, too, when Disney paid $7.4 billion to buy Pixar, even inviting Jobs to serve on their board of directors. Maybe they should make a movie about the forgotten Japanese soldier on Guam who kept fighting World War II until January 24, 1972.
On This Day: January 25
The next time you say “no” and some kid responds with “it’s Opposite Day, so that actually means yes,” patiently explain that only works on January 25. In the spirit of the holiday, I hope you have a terrible day, whether you’re celebrating in a room of your own, outside observing the weather, or at the library taking “shelfies” (selfies with the book shelves). The Scottish, meanwhile, feast tonight with poetry, the Welsh spread love, and Indians prepare for spring.
On January 25, 1775, Congress approved the first national memorial in U.S. history, honoring Revolutionary-War general Richard Montgomery. Many others have also won prestigious prizes on this day, seeing as the Winter Olympics and Emmy awards ceremony for excellence in television both premiered on this day, in 1924 and 1949 respectively. What did all these winners earn? Nothing as valuable as the world’s largest diamond. That made Sir Thomas Cullinan the biggest champion of all on January 25, 1905, when his team in South Africa dug up a 3,106-carat diamond weighing 1.33 pounds. Over a hundred smaller diamonds were cut from the Cullinan, including the “Star of Africa,” setting the bar high for all other cut diamonds at 530 carats.
On This Day: January 26
If you’re married, today is a great day to earn extra points by remembering National Spouses Day. Surprise your life partner with a box of peanut brittle, words of encouragement, and a romantic dinner out, though clashing clothes or dental drills could ruin the mood. A trip abroad would be a much grander gesture, plus it would give you a chance to thank your customs official. Maybe bring him or her some healthy green juice on International Environmental Education Day.
Not only was Spanish Conquistador Vicente Yanez Pinzon responsible for commanding the Nina during Christopher Columbus’ original voyage to the Americas, but he also discovered Brazil on January 26, 1500. That didn’t stop the Portuguese from claiming that area for themselves later the same year, though. This day also marks the first British settlements in Australia, when, in 1788, Captain Arthur Phillip led eleven ships full of prisoners to found the penal colony of New South Wales. India, on the other hand, celebrates its independence from England on this same day. Self-rule had been promised during World War II, but sadly, it took Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination to unite all sides long enough to finalize a national constitution in 1950.
On This Day: January 27
First and foremost, let’s have a moment of silence in honor of both International Holocaust Remembrance Day and Vietnam Peace Day. Give your little ones an extra hug on National Preschool Health and Fitness Day, too. Pumping milk helps babies stay healthy. Don’t forget to put on a silly wig as you donate to cancer research today, either. Finally, Tomas Crapper Day honors the father (if not inventor) of the modern toilet. Our world without crappers would be total crap!
On January 27, 1945, Soviet forces liberated the survivors of Auschwitz Concentration Camp, and for the first time the world finally comprehended the full depth of Nazi atrocities. More than a million Jews, Poles, Roma, and others had died in that one camp alone. This day also marks the end of the Vietnam War in 1973, which cost another 3.8 million lives, two million of whom were also innocent bystanders. NASA had a rough week of it, too. On January 27, 1967, Apollo I caught fire during a pre-launch simulation, killing all three astronaut wannabes aboard. Nineteen years and one day later, in 1986, the space shuttle Challenger exploded seventy-three seconds after takeoff, killing the first civilian in space, Christa McAuliffe.
On This Day: January 28
Are you ready to wax nostalgic? January 28 is all about celebrating the little things in life, like daisies (small white and yellow flowers), quilts (stitched, usually handmade blankets), kazoos (high-pitched, buzzing mouth instruments), and Legos (bare feet murderers). You can also try swapping seeds or rounding up rattlesnakes. Whatever your interests, share them with the global community, but be careful to keep your data private. Keep your carbon footprint low, too, and don’t forget to thank a pediatrician today.
American history is rife with unspeakable practices that we criticize today in other countries. For example, did you know we had our own morality police for sixty years, and tens of thousands of women were forcibly sterilized in the name of genetic purity? Equally little-known is the government’s policy of stripping Mexican day workers naked as they entered the country and drenching them in dangerous chemicals, supposedly to ward off typhus. This concept was eventually adapted by the Nazis to create their own gas chambers. Rumors that guards were taking pictures brought the situation to a boil and led to riots outside of Santa Fe on January 28, 1917. Even so, the practice continued well into the 1950s.
On This Day: January 29
Happy National Puzzle Day everyone, whether you’re a liberal freethinker always thinking outside the box, or an old, miserable curmudgeon who just wants to be left alone. One brainteaser that continues to perplex experts is how to wipe out leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease. We’ve had more luck finding creative solutions to help the blind. Did you know that the idea of training seeing-eye guide dogs began in Germany as a way to help WWI veterans cope with shell-shock?
Do you know where the geographic center of the United States is? The answer, South Dakota, may seem surprising if you forgot to factor in Alaska and Hawaii. When considering just the contiguous states, it’s northern Kansas. While neither of those places sounds very exciting nowadays, Kansas was a hotbed of violence leading up to the Civil War. Hundreds were murdered over the issue of whether or not they would be admitted as a free- or slave-state on January 29, 1861. A lot of blood was spilled over the thorny issue of communism as well, but on this same day in 1979, Jimmy Carter and Deng Xiaoping signed accords that finally opened up trading relationships between the two countries.
On This Day: January 30
Martyrs’ Day honors Mahatma Gandhi on the day of his assassination every January 30. Having been reminded that life is short, National Escape Day encourages us to say no to the status quo. Leave an inane message on your answering machine, forget the diet, and pick up some fresh croissants for breakfast. Draw some dinosaurs, and appreciate the simple joys of popping bubble wrap. You could even try yodeling for your neighbors, as long as they won’t call the cops.
After a lifetime dedicated to peacefully protesting European colonization in South Africa and his native India, Mohandas Gandhi – granted the title Mahatma or “great soul” – was overjoyed when Britain finally agreed to leave in 1947. Many were disappointed, however, by the decision to divide Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan into two separate nations. Religious violence soon broke out, and the Mahatma scrambled to calm both sides. Nathuram Godse, a Hindu extremist, was tired of hearing about tolerance and peace, though. He wanted blood, and on January 30, 1948, he got it, stepping out of a crowd to shoot the great leader. Gandhi died, but not in vain, as the shock of his death finally brought an end to the fighting.
On This Day: January 31
February’s almost here, with its promise of warmer weather, but we have to survive Hell Is Freezing Over Day first. Start with a mug of hot chocolate before climbing into a gorilla or zebra suit – I’ve heard they get pretty toasty. Did you send yours out to have it cleaned? That’s unfortunate, but maybe some artistic inspiration can light a fire in your heart, instead. Hug an economist, too, and start planning for your next vacation somewhere much, much warmer.
If we’re being honest, the Soviet Union clearly dominated throughout most of the Space Race. Sputnik was launched in 1957, whereas America’s first satellite, Explorer I, wasn’t ready until January 31, 1958. That’s not to say that the United States didn’t win some major points, however. Ten weeks before Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space, Ham the “Astrochimp” claimed the honor of first ape, also on January 31, 1961. He made it back to Earth in one piece, too, unlike poor Laika the Space Dog. Alan Shepard was just a few months behind them as the first American in orbit. Exactly ten years after Ham’s adventure, he also became the fifth man to walk on the moon.