Lewis Carroll and John Tenniel’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is commonly regarded as one of the most beloved stories in western culture, but its influence grows far beyond the books. With movies, games, and even a ‘Mad Hatter Day’ holiday in honour of the novel, Alice in Wonderland is an important part of the western zeitgeist, and that doesn’t look to be changing any time soon.
So, what exactly is Mad Hatter Day, where does it come from, and why should attempts at emulating the term’s origin be avoided at all costs?
The term “as mad as a hatter” alludes to an individual’s eccentric behaviour. Thought to originate in Denton and Stockport in the surrounding areas of Manchester, the term referred to the effect of mercury on hatters who were exposed to this substance on a daily basis.
Though mercury poisoning has many symptoms, instability was one of the most famous, and it’s why we’re not going to approach this celebratory day with a concern for nominal literality.
On a much lighter note, Mad Hatter Day originated in 1986 in Boulder, Colorado. It was created by a group of IT workers, who joked that some of their workmates did less damage when they were being silly, like the Mad Hatter, than when they were actually doing their jobs.
This simple idea proved so popular and spread so quickly that just two years later, Mad Hatter Day became an officially recognised holiday.
So, there’s no official protocol about what it is exactly that you’re supposed to do to celebrate Mad Hatter Day. It’s mainly about figuring out what element of silly entertainment is right for you. For some, it’s about adding some laughter to the mundane workday, whilst for others, it’s a day best celebrated at home or with friends.
People have widely interpreted the day as being a great opportunity to go all out and dress as the Mad Hatter, whether this is a simple nod to the character with an elaborate hat or a full-blown outfit. This can be a lot of fun, but dependent on what your job is, it might be worth checking that your bosses are okay with this, first!
Another approach could be to settle up at night and watch the Alice in Wonderland movies, seeing who can come up with the best or most annoying imitations of the various characters. Served with different movie-themed foods and drinks, this could even become a yearly event and a pre-Halloween warm-up, with both holidays falling in the autumnal month of October.
Finally, an easy way to celebrate Mad Hatter Day is to give the classic a re-read. Years and years after it was first released, Alice and Wonderland remains a firm favourite for avid bookworms and there are more versions than ever before out there on the market. Audiobooks could also work just as well, especially given how tricky it can be to take the time to read when you have a busy and bustling day planned out. Going a step further on this front, thespians familiar with the story could even play out their favourite scenes, with some personal touches on top for good measure.
Mad Hatter Day has gained momentum over time because everybody can celebrate it, through acts big and small. We all need a little fun sometimes and if you’re looking for an excuse, you’ll hardly find a better one! This annual holiday is a sure-fire reminder to find the fun in the ordinary and give something new a go. Just be sure not to climb down any actual rabbit holes, they’re far dirtier and more cramped than Tenniel and Carroll would have us think.