annually on May 25th (since 2001)
Clyde D. Williamson on May 14th, 2001
Towel Day celebrates author Douglas Adams and his best-known work, the science-fiction series The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The day was first held on May 25, 2001, two weeks after Adams passed away on May 11, at the age of 49 from a heart attack. On the day, fans are to carry a towel to show their appreciation for the author and his books.
On May 14, 2001, Clyde D. Williamson made a post on the open source forum "System Toolbox," proposing that May 25 should be Towel Day. He said:
"Make sure that the towel is conspicous[sic]- use it as a talking point to encourage those who have never read the Hitchhiker's Guide to go pick up a copy. Wrap it around your head, use it as a weapon, soak it in nutrients- whatever you want!"
A few days after the post, Chris Campbell registered towelday.org to spread word about the day. The day then became an annual event.
But what do towels have to do with anything? Chapter 3 of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy talks about the significance of towels:
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.
Douglas Adams was born March 11, 1952, in Cambridge, England. After graduating from Cambridge in 1974, he wrote for Doctor Who and wrote scripts for the BBC. He wrote the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy radio series, which was a 12-part series that ran from 1978 through 1980 on BBC radio. It was followed by the novel The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy in 1979, and then four other novels: The Restaurant at the End of the Universe; Life, the Universe and Everything; So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish; and Mostly Harmless. The series parodies and lampoons modern society. It follows Englishman Arthur Dent in a world of absurdity and randomness and is filled with humor and cynicism. In total, the books have sold over 14 million copies. The series has been adapted to television, theater, film, comics, and even to a computer game. Douglas Adams also wrote a number of other books such as Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency; The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul; The Meaning of Liff; The Utterly Utterly Merry Comic Relief Christmas Book; and Last Chance to See… Today we celebrate him and all of his work, but especially The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and do so by carrying a towel.
How to Observe
The day is best celebrated by carrying a towel in the most conspicuous way possible so that people ask you why you have it. Then you are to tell them about The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and encourage them to pick up a copy of the book. If you haven't read the book yourself, today is an excellent day to get your own copy. You could also pick up the rest of the books in the series. Other media related to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy that you could enjoy include the radio series, the TV series or the film.
Events taking place around the world on the day are listed on the holiday's website. You could check there for an event to attend or organize your own event. Create a Facebook page or webpage for your event, and send an email to have your event listed on the holiday's website. Some ideas for activities at your event could include a toast to Douglas Adams or the watching of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Visit the day's Facebook page to post pictures from events you attend or pictures of yourself carrying a towel. Other ways you could celebrate the day include joining ZZ9 Plural Z Alpha, which is an appreciation society for the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, or donating to some charities that Douglas Adams supported, such as Save the Rhino and The Gorilla Organization.