Mad Hatter Day

  1. What Is It?

    MadHatterDay is a holiday in October. It fills the need for a second crazy day in the year, almost exactly half a year from April Fools' Day. The real spirit of MadHatterDay is turnabout: The nonsense we usually have to pretend is sane can be called madness for one day in the year; the superficially crazy things that really make sense can be called sane on MadHatterDay.

    MadHatterDay is 10/6. The date was chosen from the illustrations by John Tenniel in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, wherein the Mad Hatter is always seen wearing a hat bearing a slip of paper with the notation "In this style 10/6". We take this as inspiration to behave in the style of the Mad Hatter on 10/6 (which is October 6 here, although in Britain MadHatterDay occurs on June 10...but I digress...) Some astute observers have noted that the paper in the Mad Hatter's Hat was really an order to make a hat in the style shown, to cost ten shillings sixpence. However, it is well known that Time Is Money, and therefore Money Is Time, and therefore 10/6 may as well be the sixth of October.

    MadHatterDay began in Boulder, CO, in 1986, among some computer folk who had nothing better to do. It was immediately recognized as valuable because they caused less damage than if they'd been doing their jobs. It was announced that first year on computer networks. In 1987 it gained minor local recognition. In 1988, it was first recognized as an official holiday by an area business, and also received its first national press coverage by news services (who are always desperate for an unlikely story). It is almost certain that the national election also gave MadHatterDay a good boost in 1988.

    Detailed plans for this year's MadHatterDay observance will, of course, be announced on October 7. We have found that plans made after the fact are more accurate and much easier to have fulfilled. Or, as the Red Queen said, "sentence first, then the verdict!"

  2. What Goes?

    What do people do on MadHatterDay? In general, we celebrate silliness. But what if your work involves something inherently silly -- say marketing, where you put on a three-piece suit (five or six layers of fabric) in the summertime, tie a piece of cloth around your neck to restrict blood flow to the brain, and set about trying to convince people to buy things they don't want and can't afford because this will give the country a Healthy Economy? In this case, doing something absolutely sane will have a more startling effect than you can possibly imagine.

    Your world is crazier than you think:

    ...and it goes. Take a look around you, drop your assumptions about what must be proper and normal, and see how much of it is just silly. Better yet, try to find something that does make sense.

    Don't hurt anyone. Save the pranks for April 1. This is "a Kinder, Gentler Fool's Day."

    And it's the day after Ari Rapkin's birthday. What better excuse?

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Ari Rapkin
Last modified: Thu Oct 17 20:52:13 EDT 1996