Updated: Nov 8, 2020
Today, 10/6/2020, is National Mad Hatter Day (US). According to nationaldaycalendar.com this holiday was started by a group of computer technicians in Boulder, CO in 1986 as a day of celebration of silliness. Why “10/6”, you may ask? Ah, well for that answer we must go all the way back in time to 1865, and to a book by Lewis Carroll entitled Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. There, in Chapter 7, A Mad Tea Party, we find this illustration by John Tenniel.
In it, we see Alice uncomfortably seated at one end of a table with the March Hare, the Dormouse and the Hatter seated along one side of that same table. There is a card on the Hatter’s hat that reads, “In this Style 10/6”, and therefore the technicians in Boulder chose October 6th as the day of celebration. Had these computer techies been in the UK or other places where the date is written with the day first and the month second, they would have chosen 10 June as their day of mad celebration. Thankfully, there’s no reason not to go entirely bonkers and joyfully celebrate on both dates!
Now, those in the know know that “10/6” on the Hatter’s hat stands for 10 shillings, 6 pence, which in today’s English currency would be approximately £31.04 (or $40.21). For a skilled tradesman in the 1860s, this would have been the equivalent of two days’ wages, making this quite an expensive topper. Oh, and to be perfectly accurate, the character is “the Hatter” in the books, madness being an assumed attribute. It’s only after the books were out amongst the people that he has come to be called “the Mad Hatter”.
What does one do on Mad Hatter Day? Well, I (plus Madison) say that drinking tea is a must, hopefully with one or two friends, and preferably whilst seated at a table that is laid out for a great many more people. Sartorially, you’ll want to mix your checked pants or skirt with a striped shirt and solid color jacket (or vice versa) with said shirt underneath a paisley vest. Velvet or silk are excellent choices for materials, by the way. A polka-dotted bow tie or scarf around the neck and mismatched, brightly colored socks would add a festive air, as would a gorgeous top hat bedecked with a feather or other ornament. One could also keep the upper garments more neutral in tone and color and contrast them with brightly colored shoes. The choice we leave to you. Accessorize with a pocket watch, preferably one that runs backwards, and a tea cup ring.
And then as for conversation, we’d suggest composing and declaiming Wonderland-themed rhymes ex tempore. If the mere thought of such an improvisatory undertaking fills you with fear and trepidation, no worries! Taking turns reading aloud from Alice’s Adventures, especially Chapter 7, would fill the Time nicely. The more adventurous might wish jump into Looking-Glass Land instead, and read the portions in which the Hare and Hatter appear. Did you know that they are the only characters from the first book, besides Alice herself, who reappear in the second book? For extra points, guess in which chapter.
One might wish to round out the day’s festivities by watching any one of a number of Alice film adaptations. The animated 1951 Disney version mixes characters from both books, and appeals to many. Its popularity is likely the reason that, when people picture Alice in their minds, she is wearing a blue dress. (The first colorized version of Tenniel’s illustrations has Alice in a yellow dress and blue stockings.) The BBC produced a fairly faithful adaptation of the first book in 1985/86 that can be viewed through the Alexander Street streaming platform subscribed to by many academic and public libraries. My preference is still for the 2010 Tim Burton Alice in Wonderland. After all, it’s the one that sent me tumbling into this mad world, and it’s how I met my guardian angel. While it’s too long a tale to tell here, you can hear me, and Madison, relating it in Episode 1 of our solo/duo show, The Twinkle Bat Variations, by going to our Podcast page.
We wish you an absolutely frabjous Mad Hatter Day! (Futterwacken vigorously and let us know in the comments below how you spent your day!)