Shichi-Go-San 7-5-3 Festival – Japan

November 15


Shichi-Go-San means 7-5-3.

The holiday celebrates the transition of Japanese boys and girls to the next stages of childhood. The tradition centers around five year-old boys, seven year-old girls, and three year-olds of both genders.

In olden days, Japanese babies’ heads were routinely shaven for the first two to three years of their life. At age three, children of warrior families (age two for children of the court) would observe kamioki, aka “leaving the hair”. On the fifteenth day of the eleventh lunar month, families prayed for a long life for the child; children would wear special wigs for the occasion. After kamioki, the child’s hair was allowed to grow out.

For the older children, five year-old boys and seven year-old girls continue a variation of the ancient himotoki tradition, in which children would tie their own belt, symbolizing their entrance into the next stage of childhood. These ceremonies are generally performed at a special shrine.

“In the early Edo period, these rites, known collectively as shichi-go-san, were the preserve of the court and warrior families. Later, they caught on amongst the wider urban population…It was not until the Meiji period, however, that it became a nation-wide phenomenon.”

Shinto, a Short History, by Teeuwen, Inoue, Breen, Ito

Shichi-Go-San Festival
Shichi-Go-San Festival

Sadie Hawkins Day

November 13, 15, 16, or the Saturday after November 9


“For 15 years, Sadie Hawkins, homely daughter of Dogpatch’s earliest settler, had failed to catch a husband. Her Pappy in desperation one day called together all the eligible bachelors of Dogpatch…”

Thus spoke Sadie’s father:

“‘Boys! Since none o’ yo’ has been man enough t’ marry mah dotter, ah gotta take firm measures!! Ah declares t’day “Sadie Hawkins Day” — When ah fires all o’ yo kin start a-runnin’! When ah fires agin—after givin’ yo’ a fair start—Sadie starts a-runnin’. Th’ one she ketches’ll be her husband!'”

With the boom of Pappy Hawkins’ gun, artist and writer Al Capp started a sexual revolution.

The year was 1937. Al Capp, creator of the comic strip Li’l Abner, needed a plot point to move the story along in his November strip. Li’l Abner starred Abner Yokum, a small-town simpleton whose life revolved around fishin’ and not gettin’ hooked to his long-suffering girlfriend Daisy Mae. The Sadie Hawkins Day tradition fell into place. Al Capp invented a race wherein, if a woman could catch a man, she could wed him. Capp explained the reasoning behind the race in a three-panel historical flashback of the original Sadie Hawkins.

According to panel 3:

“Well, Sadie did catch one of the boys. The other spinsters of Dogpatch reckoned it were such a good idea that Sadie Hawkins Day was made an annual affair.”

Al Capp’s idea struck a cord, not just with the fictional residents of Dogpatch, but all around America. Keep in mind Al Capp came up with this back when it was frowned upon for a woman to even ask a guy out on a date or to a dance. Yet within two years of Sadie Hawkins’ original appearance, “Sadie Hawkins Day” was being celebrated at over 200 schools in 188 towns across the United States! (Life Magazine, Dec. 11, 1939.) Granted, at most of these institutions the girls didn’t marry the guys they caught. Instead, the schools held Sadie Hawkins Dances, in which girls would ask boys to the dance instead of the typical other way around.

“Costumes derive from characters in Li’l Abner. Girls generally dress as pretty Daisy Mae rather than as homely Sadie Hawkins. At Texas Wesleyan, where Bible study is a required course, a slogan for Sadie Hawkins Day was found in Daniel, XII, 4: “Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.” (Life Magazine, 12/11/39)

There is no set date for Sadie Hawkins Day. cites November 15 and November 16, 1937 as the first appearances of Sadie Hawkins. Other sources say November 13. Regardless of its first appearance, Sadie Hawkins Day is generally celebrated on November 13, 15, 16, or the first Saturday after November 9. A few sites insist that Sadie Hawkins Day is February 29, a date that would no doubt please Abner himself. (Others disagree.)

As it turns out, Daisy did not catch Abner that first Sadie Hawkins Day in 1937. In fact, it wasn’t until 1952 that Al Capp bowed to public pressure and allowed Daisy and Abner to tie the knot, an event that made the cover of Life Magazine.


Incidentally, Capp himself would not have fared well in any Sadie Hawkins Day race. As a nine-year old boy in New Haven, the future comic writer was run over by a trolley and lost his left leg.

“All comedy is based on man’s delight in man’s inhumanity to man…I have made 40 million people laugh more or less every day for 16 years (on that formula)…”

“…We didn’t laugh because we were heartless wretches. We laughed because we are normal human beings, full of self-doubt, full of vague feelings of inferiority, full of a desperate need to be reassured.” Al Capp, Atlantic Monthly, February 1950


“It is the ambition of every newspaper cartoonist to get published in something that won’t be used to wrap fish in the next morning.” Al Capp, Atlantic Monthly

My Well-Balanced Life on a Wooden Leg, by Al Capp, Review by Bobby Matherne

Al Capp, Time Magazine: Inhuman Man

The Comic Book Makers, by Joe Simon

Santa Cruz Massacre – East Timor

November 12

East Timor, or Timor Leste, underwent multiple brutal, but largely overlooked occupations in the 20th century. Up until 1975 it was governed by the Portuguese, for 300 years in fact. The western half of the island was occupied by the Dutch until World War II, when both sides were taken by the Japanese. Following the war, Indonesia took possession of the western half of the island and Portugal regained possession of the east, aka East Timor.

In 1975, while political troubles took hold of Portugal, the East Timorese hoped for independence. However, the hope was short-live. Soon after declaring itself independent, on November 28, 1975, Indonesia invaded the eastern half of the island, beginning an occupation that would kill an estimated quarter of East Timor’s population.

For many, the brutality of the Indonesian occupation was epitomized by the events of November 12, 1991. On that day…

“…several hundred Timorese gathered at the Santa Cruz cemetery to peacefully demonstrate against Indonesia’s forced integration of East Timor. For two or three minutes, Indonesian troops fired into the crowd…Two-hundred seventy-one unarmed East Timorese civilians, mostly young people, were killed. Three-hundred eighty-two others were wounded. Two-hundred fifty more just “disappeared.”

Becoming Evil: How Ordinary People Commit Genocide and Mass Killing, by James Waller

“I saw candles everywhere, in every house, and people praying, hoping that maybe God could help bring their brothers, sisters, and parents back home.

“The massacre was a complete surprise. We didn’t expect this could happen. I was shocked. With the presence of Pieter Koojimans and foreign journalists, it was impossible for us to imagine that Indonesia would do anything so barbaric.”

Constancio Pinto, East Timor’s Unfinished Struggle: Inside the Timorese Resistance

Because of the presence of foreign journalists, the crimes that the people of East Timor had been subjected to for decades received international attention. It would take another decade for the Indonesian government to relinquish control of East Timor due to international pressure.

Today, the people of East Timor mourn those who fell on November 12, and all those who gave their lives to the cause of independence.

In Flanders Fields… Remembrance Day/Veterans Day

November 11

One of the most famous poems of war was written in May 1915 by a Canadian doctor stationed at Ypres during World War I. When the Canadians arrived on April 17 they were strangers to trench warfare. The Germans were not.

The Canadians occupied what would prove to be a particularly tragic stretch of grass of the infamous Flanders field. When the Germans attacked, they used every weapon in their arsenal, including poison gas.

The Canadians suffered 6,000 casualties during the April-May 2nd Battle of Ypres, half of them on a single day. Lt. Colonel John McCrae recalled it as

“Seventeen days of Hades! At the end of the first day if anyone had told us we had to spend seventeen days there, we would have folded our hands and said it could not have been done.”

Dr. McCrae was entrusted with the futile task of treating the wounded. On May 3, the day after his friend and former student Alexis Helmer was killed in battle, McCrae surveyed the poppies of the cemetery field and paused to scribble three verses.

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

One of the first people to read it was a young soldier named Cyril Allinson.

“The poem was an exact description of the scene in front of us both. He used the word blow in that line because the poppies actually were being blown that morning by a gentle east wind. It never occurred to me at that time that it would ever be published. It seemed to me just an exact description of the scene.”

McCrae would never know peace. He died of pneumonia in January 1918 in northern France, 10 months before the Armistice that ended World War I. In the United States, the anniversary of the armistice is known as Veterans Day. In Europe and Canada, November 11th is Remembrance Day.

Lt. Colonel Dr. John McCrae
Lt. Colonel Dr. John McCrae

Today veterans sell poppies in memory of all those who have served since Flanders Fields.

How the tradition of selling poppies for veterans began:

Atatürk Memorial – Turkey

November 10


“November 10 should never be a day of mourning. Let’s not forget that important people are remembered for their ideas, works, sacrifices and endeavors; not through mourning.” — Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, November 10, 2009

At precisely 9:05 on the morning of November 10th each year, life comes to a halt in Turkey. In cities across the country, Turks observe a moment of silence to remember the moment Mustafa Kemal Atatürk passed away in 1938 in Istanbul.

Atatürk—literally “Father of the Turks”, a title officially bestowed upon him in 1934—was Turkey’s George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and FDR all rolled into one. He commanded troops under the Ottoman Empire during World War I. Following the war, when it appeared foreign powers had usurped the Sultanate in all but name, Atatürk led the fight against Western invaders and created a new Turkish state, free of foreign influence. He stabilized the new nation of Turkey as its first President and introduced sweeping social and economic reforms during his 15 year presidency.

Memorials for Atatürk adorn not only Turkey, but even places as far-flung as Australia and New Zealand.

Kemal Atatürk Memorial, Canberra
Kemal Atatürk Memorial, Canberra ©2007 Peter Ellis

“Mankind is a single body and each nation a part of that body. We must never say ‘What does it matter to me if some part of the world is ailing?’ If there is such an illness, we must concern ourselves with it as though we were having that illness.”

— Mustafa Kemal Atatürk

A brief biography of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and a tour of the Mausoleum

Fall of the Berlin Wall

November 9


Today is the 20th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall.

November 9, 1989 marked the end of an era and a new beginning for millions of Germans, who had been separated from their countrymen for nearly three decades by boundaries both tangible and intangible.

The original Wall was a far cry from the approximately 90-mile long concrete leviathan of 1989, parts of which still survive today. The original wall was merely a wire fence that went up virtually overnight in August 1961. The Wall served to stop the population drain from East Berlin, as residents of the Soviet sector moved to the West. An estimated 2.5 million people emigrated from East Germany during the 1950s.

“On what became known as “Barbed Wire Sunday,” some awoke to find themselves suddenly trapped in the Soviet sectors, separated overnight from families, friends and loved ones who happened to live on the other side of the Wall.”

The Day the Berlin Wall Went Up

In 1962 the wire fence was enhanced. In 1965 authorities erected a concrete wall, which got its final major makeover in 1975.

The Wall symbolized the isolation of East Germany under Soviet control, and its fall on November 9, 1989 symbolized a new freedom for millions of East Germans.

Tim, a Berlin resident who was 8 when the wall came down, learned about capitalism at an early age. He earned money for his first bicycle by selling pieces of the Berlin Wall to tourists. When asked if people ever sold random pieces of concrete pretending they were from the Wall, he replied, “There was so much Wall, you didn’t need to. The supply was endless.”

Living with the Wall

Abet and Aid Punsters Day

November 8

Warning to women who go camping:
Beware of evil intent

If you’re experiencing withdrawal from October holidays, no better way to be Hallowean’ed than by celebrating Abet and Aid Pun Day.

We’ve no clue how this holiday originated or why November 8th is the fortunate day in question. [By coincidence it holds the distinction of falling on the day between Russia’s former Revolution Day—marking the beginning of the Soviet experiment on November 7, 1917—and the fall of the Berlin Wall—marking the end of the experiment on November 9, 1989.] The holiday actually dates all the way back to the 1970’s, though its precise origins are lost to time.

Regardless of how it began, Abet and Aid Punsters Day is a good time to reflect on the holiday headlines of the past year…

Holiday headlines:

Children’s Day:
Kids in trouble for resisting a rest.

Bastille Day:
Celebrants who jumped off Paris bridge declared temporarily in Seine.

Revolution Day:
Army beauty pageant called off. Troops revolting.

Santa’s helpers: deemed Subordinate Clauses.

Holiday predictions:

After eating enough Thanksgiving leftovers, you will quit cold turkey.

If it’s drizzly on December 25th, yule have a merry Christ-mist.

Holiday with the most waves? Flag Day of course!
(Incidentally, Betsy Ross’s first design was decided upon by referendum: the country’s first flag poll!)

Valentine’s Day:
Some girls like roses, all like two lips.

Independence Day:
In July, may the fourth be with you.

Until next year, remember what happened to the holiday calendar thief…
He got twelve months!

[Translator’s note: this page is guaranteed to make no sense in any language but English. (And even then, very little.)]

Day of Accord and Reconciliation – Russia

November 7


November 7 is (or was) Day or Accord and Reconciliation in Russia. The holiday celebrates the anniversary of the October Revolution in 1917.

In early 1917, the February Revolution overthrew the centuries-old tsarist regime and established a provisional parliamentary government, of which Alexander Kerensky became the head.

Kerensky and the provisional government supported the continuation of the war against Germany, a position that proved unpopular with starving Russians. The Bolsheviks—the farthest left-reaching political party—under Vladimir Lenin supported immediate withdrawal. Lenin and the Bolsheviks gained momentum and power over the course of the year. After Kerensky declared Russia a republic, the Bolsheviks led a revolt and stormed the Winter Palace in Petrograd, ending the provisional government.

Civil War raged through Russia over the next five years, during which the Bolsheviks established themselves as the sole government of the Soviet Union.

The revolution took place on October 24/25 according to the old calendar in Russia. The date translates to November 7.

Known as Revolution Day throughout the history of the Soviet Union, the holiday lost its importance after the U.S.S.R.’s dissolution in 1991.

In 1996, Boris Yeltsin changed the name to Day of Accord and Reconciliation in order to emphasize the unity of the Russian people rather than its divisions.

In recent years the holiday has merged in the Russia psyche with November 4’s Unity Day, a pre-Soviet holiday rechristened by Vladimir Putin. Unity Day commemorates the Russian victory over Polish invaders in 1612.

Whether November 7 or November 4 will emerge as the big November holiday in years to come has yet to be reconciled.


Update: According to Russian sources, November 4 has supplanted November 7 as the national holiday.