The choice of the theme for today has made me giggle – here I am, on my WhichHatToday website, writing about a Mad Hatter Day.
If you are an American, you will most likely know all about it, but this is the first time ever I have heard about a Mad Hatter Day. So, for the benefit of my non-American readers (and my own), I decided to find out more.
What is a Mad Hatter Day?
First of all – I’m pretty sure there is no need to explain who Mad Hatter was, but just to be on the safe side – he was a character from Lewis Carroll’s book ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’. The Mad Hatter wore a top hat with a piece of paper attached to it – that piece of paper was apparently the hat’s price tag and said ’10/6′, meaning ten shillings and sixpence.
Mad Hatter Day is a ‘silly holiday’ in the United States, celebrated on the 6th of October, with the date having been chosen based on the Mad Hatter’s hat’s price tag of ’10/6′, which stands for October 6th in American date format, and so today is a Mad Hatter Day in America. ‘Silly holiday’ is exactly what it says – those who celebrate it, put on top hats and do silly things!
Who invented it?
As the story goes, the Mad Hatter Day originated in 1986 when a group of computer workers in Boulder, Colorado, had nothing better to do and decided to have a day of general silliness, inspired by the drawings of the Mad Hatter from the ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ book.
I have no idea what they were supposed to be doing work-wise, but the idea soon grew in popularity, as apparently it was realised that some people did less damage while celebrating silliness rather than doing their jobs! It sounds a bit scary and I’m not sure how true this assertion is, but if someone is inclined to do a bit of detailed research, then I imagine American press of the late 1980s could provide some answers.
Were hatters really mad?
Apparently so. A phrase ‘mad as a hatter’ has roots in ‘carroting’, a process widely used in hat making industry in the 18th and 19th centuries in Europe and up to the Second World War years in the United States of America.
‘Carroting’ was a process of curing felt for use in making hats. Furs from rabbits, hares or beavers were separated from their skins, matted together into felt and a solution of mercuric nitrate was poured over it to moisten and smooth it before further processing. The problem was that mercury vapours were released during the process and hat makers were unable to avoid breathing the vapours in.
Mercury vapours are neurotoxic and prolonged exposure resulted in mercury poisoning with severe neurological damage. The symptoms included “hatter’s shakes” (uncontrollable muscular tremors and twitching of limbs), vision distortion, confused speech and even hallucinations. So yes, many hatters did go mad and, unfortunately, some of them even died from mercury poisoning.
Going back to the fun day idea… Space Jam!
Thankfully, mercury is no longer used in hat making, so the only connotation of Mad Hatter Day is celebration of fun and harmless silliness. What will I do on Mad Hatter Day? There is only one possible choice for me – I am going to sit down with my children and watch a film which makes me laugh every single time I watch it.
The film I am going to watch is ‘Space Jam’, a 1996 production with Michael Jordan and Bugs Bunny, in which Michael helps a team of Looney Toons characters play a basketball game for freedom vs. mean and nasty aliens who enslaved them.
There are three reasons I still love this film, despite having watched it endless times:
1. It conveys a powerful message with its theme tune ‘I believe I can fly’ – you can achieve anything you dream of if you believe you can;
2. The combination of real-life actors and cartoon characters is fantastic and the story is hilarious;
3. I have a sentimental attachment to this film – my eldest played with his toy basketball set in our living room while watching the video. He was only 3-years old at the time and his favourite moment was when Michael’s arm stretched all the way across the court to reach the hoop and win the match. He had me rewind that scene for him time after time, after time… Last week, he played a basketball game for his school, his team won 50-32 and he was one of the boys who scored. I am very proud of him.
Happy Mad Hatter Day, everyone!
No mercury, whether elemental or imaginary, has been used in the process of creating the above content. However, this should not be taken as an iron-clad guarantee that the author has not gone slightly mad for the day.
A VERY IMPORTANT NOTICE:
Prior to writing this post, I had no idea a Mad Hatter Day existed and so had to do a bit of research to find out what it was and where it came from. The information presented in my post is based on the following internet sources:
Images are courtesy of Google Images ‘free to use and share, even commercially’