Monday, May 25 marks the 14th annual Geek Pride Day, which was officially begun in Spain in 2006. Taking inspiration from geek pride festivals in the United States that dated back to the late 1990s, Geek Pride Day celebrations quickly spread worldwide. The day is also Towel Day, which honors the anniversary of the death of author Douglas Adams; the anniversary of the release of Star Wars in 1977; and in the Discworld books by Terry Pratchett, it is the anniversary of the Glorious Revolution of the Twenty-Fifth of May.
In 2006, Spanish blogger Germán Martínez chose the day to coincide with the 1977 release of Star Wars. One of the first events in Madrid involved 300 people playing a game of human Pac-Man. Martínez also drew up a list of basic rights and responsibilities for geeks. Some of the items on the “Geek Bill of Rights” included being “more geek,” staying at home, not liking sports, and even “world domination.” Responsibilities included attending “every geeky movie on opening night” and buying “every geeky book before anyone else.” Geek Pride Day celebrations hit American shores in 2008. By 2010, it had spread to countries like Canada, Hungary, Israel, and Romania, and a parade was held in Sweden in 2013. Geek Pride Day celebrations can be shared and coordinated via the geekprideday.org web site.
Geek Pride Day also shares the day with Towel Day, created to honor the passing of Douglas Adams, creator of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Celebrated each year on the second week following his untimely death on May 11, 2001, the holiday was proposed by D Clyde Williamson in the “Binary Freedom” forum; he wrote that “All Douglas Adams fans [were] encouraged to carry a towel with them for the day.” Several dates were proposed for the celebration; the date that gained traction was “the last Friday of every May, the Friday before the 42nd week-end day of the year,” which fell on May 25th that year. Additionally, adding the hexadecimal numbers 5 and 25, then converting the sum back to decimal, also resulted in 42, which in the book was “the answer to life, the universe, and everything.” The towel was chosen as the symbol for the celebration to honor Adams’ passing because, as he wrote in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy:
A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you — daft as a brush, but very very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.
More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitchhiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have “lost.” What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with.
Hence a phrase that has passed into hitchhiking slang, as in “Hey, you sass that hoopy Ford Prefect? There’s a frood who really knows where his towel is.” (Sass: know, be aware of, meet, have sex with; hoopy: really together guy; frood: really amazingly together guy.)
— Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Towel Day celebrations can be tracked and shared via the towelday.org web site.
In 2008, following Terry Pratchett’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, Match It For Pratchett called upon his fans to wear lilacs on May 25, which in his Discworld books was the anniversary of the Glorious Revolution of the Twenty-Fifth of May.
This year also marks the 43rd anniversary of the release of the original Star Wars in 1977. Memorial Day, a holiday in the United States to honor those who died in military service, is celebrated on the final Monday of May each year, which also falls on May 25, 2020.