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Winnie the Pooh Day

Winnie the Pooh Day is celebrated on the birthday of A.A. Milne, the English author who created the popular children's character, Winnie the Pooh. The name "Winnie-the-Pooh" first appeared in a story called "The Wrong Sort of Bees," on Christmas Eve in 1925, in The Evening News. The following year, Milne published a volume of stories about Pooh, simply titled Winnie-the-Pooh. He followed this in 1928 with The House at Pooh Corner.

A black bear named Winnie—short for Winnipeg, as she had come from Canada—was an inspiration for the character. Winnie had resided at the London Zoo, and Milne's son, Christopher Robin Milne, liked to visit her; he even had the opportunity to feed her honey. Christopher named his own teddy bear Winnie the Pooh, after the real-life Winnie, as well as after a swan named Pooh, that the Milne's had seen while on vacation. Christopher's bear actually had originally been named Edward, and had been purchased at Harrods in London.

Many of the other characters that Milne created to accompany Winnie the Pooh, including Piglet, Tigger, Eeyore, Kanga, and Roo, were based on other toys of Christopher—although Owl and Rabbit were not. The original toys can be found at the New York Public Library, except Roo, who was lost in an apple orchard in the 1930s. The Hundred Acre Wood, where Pooh and his friends reside, is based on the Ashdown Forest in the English county of East Sussex.

By the 1930s, Milne had sold the rights of Winnie the Pooh to Stephen Slesinger, who created a plush Winnie the Pooh toy with a red T-shirt in 1932. In 1961, Disney bought the rights to the character from Slesinger's widow, and the hyphens in "Winnie-the-Pooh" were dropped. Over the years, Pooh appeared in animated shorts, television, and feature films.

Today's celebration of Winnie the Pooh takes place on the birthday of his creator, Alan Alexander Milne. Milne, a veteran of both World War I and World War II, studied mathematics in college, but soon turned to writing. He got his start with Punch magazine. Besides creating Winnie the Pooh, he wrote plays, such as Toad of Toad Hall—an adaptation of The Wind in the Willows, and other works, such as The Red House Mystery, a detective novel. He was unhappy that many saw him as just being a children's author, and continued to publish plays and novels following the success of Winnie the Pooh. He became estranged from his son later in life. In 1952 he had a stroke, and in 1956 he died. Instead of money, what Milne wanted most out of his work was permanence. Although he resented being typecast as a children's author, he has achieved the permanence he sought, through Winnie the Pooh, and the celebration of Winnie the Pooh Day.

How to Observe

Celebrate the day by reading Winnie-the-Pooh or The House at Pooh Corner. You could also read some of Milne's other work. The day could be spent watching feature films and television programs featuring Winnie the Pooh. It is only fitting that you would eat honey while doing these things; that's what Winnie the Pooh would do.

If you are feeling a bit adventurous, plan a trip to the New York Public Library to see the toys that the characters were based on. Or you could plan a trip to Pooh Corner in Hartfield, East Sussex, England, to retrace the characters' footsteps. One place you could stop is the nearby Ashdown Forest, which was immortalized as the Hundred Acre Wood.

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