Offbeat August Holidays

In the U.S., we don’t have any national public holidays in the month of August—no wonder the summer seems to drag on, right? But in some countries they celebrate some very odd ones during August, compared to what we’re used to here in the States.

Taiwanese Valentine’s Day—In Taiwan, the Qixi Festival is celebrated on August 17th, when many Chinese couples schedule their wedding day and hold traditional ceremonies (in traditional costumes like you see above). Weddings held en masse are also common. The traditional folk tale behind Qixi Day is a story about a downtrodden ox-herder who falls in love with a fairy maiden, even though an ordinary mortal cannot marry the daughter of a god. When the Queen Fairy Mother finds out, she takes back her daughter and keeps them separated with a line drawn in the stars, which becomes the heavenly Milky Way. The story has a happy ending though, as the couple is allowed to see each other—but only during one day of the year, on Qixi Day.

Today more than 70% of Chinese couples celebrate the holiday in one way or another, with a romantic dinner being the most popular, followed by gifts for their S.O., movie dates, writing love letters, and going to a motel to celebrate(!). That last one is surely universal?

National Picnic Day—In Northern Territory Australia, Picnic Day is a public holiday and a day off for the general population on the first Monday of August. Imagine getting paid to go on a picnic!

Aussies use the extra day for a long weekend to go on trips or to attend the annual Harts Range races, an activity filled day of riding, bbq and dancing. Others go to the town of Adelaide River to have a traditional Railway Picnic, the way the holiday got started back in the late 1800s—as a way to give the hard working rail workers of the area a day of rest and fun.

Why not have our own Picnic Day? Take along a Zojirushi Food Jar and a Stainless Bottle or two, and you’re pretty much set for a whole day outdoors!

National Melon Day—August 12th is Melon Day in Turkmenistan, a country in Central Asia near Afghanistan and Iran.

Since 1994, they have celebrated their favorite fruit that is recognized for its importance in Turkmenistan’s culture and history. Fairs and festivals are held in different regions of the country, inviting guests to taste their juiciest and sweetest melons in the world. Over 400 varieties of melon are grown here, including some of the rarest—not an easy feat considering more than 80% of Turkmenistan is desert. Hot sunny weather and long summers are natural factors which contribute to the Turkmen melon’s distinctive feature; a high sugar content that approaches 18 percent! Makes me want to try one…

“Yama No Hi” (Mountain Day)—Japan honors its mountains on August 11th, continuing this newly established national public holiday that was established in 2014. With the island nation being mostly mountainous, the Japanese have long revered their peaks—especially Mt. Fuji, a striking, nearly perfectly shaped active volcano and Japan’s highest elevation.

On Mountain Day, the Japanese are encouraged to take the day off, go hiking on the beautiful mountains, and spend some disposable income to help the economy. In truth, the first day off just got underway in 2016, so it may take some time to get traction and for people to go climbing. Apparently August 11 (8/11) was chosen because the kanji character for “8” resembles a mountain and the number “11” looks like two trees. That’s a good enough reason for me! “Yama-no-Hi” is Japan’s 16th public holiday.

Hawaii Admission Day—My home state joined the Union on August 21st, 1959. What was I doing in back in 1959? I was living in Hawaii and playing with swords instead of lightsabers, pretending to be “Zorro” instead of Obi Wan Kenobi. I mean, check out the old cars in the background! And BTW, if you don’t know who Zorro is, I’m not going to bother telling you. Just Google it.

Obviously I didn’t care whether Hawaii had become a state or not, even though an overwhelming majority of locals voted in favor of statehood, so apparently it was a big deal.

If you want to celebrate Hawaii becoming our 50th state with me this month, eat “local food”, or better yet, make some local food at home. Like Loco Moco, Spam Musubi or Butter Mochi. There is no better comfort food, in my opinion.

 

Photos: “Chinese folk wedding” by llee_wu is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0 
“a feudal picnic basket” by alex lang is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
“Fuji japan” by Travelbusy.com is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Rail Picnic from the Rail Heritage WA Archive
Statehood Girl from the Hawaii State Archives
“Swordfight” taken by Beatrice Tanimoto, circa 1959

 

 

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About Bert Tanimoto

Oldish father of two youngish kids. Zojirushi enthusiast and professional writer. California resident with roots in Hawaii and Japan. Classic rock, popcorn movies, audio books, spam, sushi and cone filtered coffee. Guilty pleasures include donuts and pop bands like ABBA and Wham!.

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