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World Tattoo Day

Celebrated around the globe, World Tattoo Day honors and celebrates tattoos and body art. It aims to strengthen the relationship among body artists around the world and to bring the tattoo lifestyle to wider mainstream acceptance. The two pillars of the day are freedom and tolerance. The main partners and supporters of the day are tattoo studios and internationally renowned tattoo artists.

March 21 was chosen as the date for World Tattoo Day because it is the date of International Colour Day, the spring equinox, and International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Tying it to International Colour Day is a reference to the mission of tattooists to make the world a more colorful place. Placing it on the spring equinox, when day and night are of equal length, symbolically references the relationship between light and shadow in art. Tying it to the International Day for Elimination of Racial Discrimination signals that there should be no discrimination based on one's skin color, nor because of the color on the skin from tattoos.

Tattoos are permanent marks made by adding pigment to the ruptures in the skin. It is believed that marks on the world's oldest mummy, the Iceman, are tattoos. His remains date to 3300 BCE and his body has 60 lines and crosses on it. Similarly, Egyptian and Nubian mummies from 2200 BCE have been found to have tattoos. Classical authors mentioned the use of tattoos by groups such as the Greeks, Romans, ancient Germans, and Britons. After the rise of Christianity, tattooing was forbidden in Europe, but tattoos remained in places such as the Middle East. Native Americans often tattooed their bodies and faces, and Europeans came across tattooing again when they came in contact with them and Polynesians. In 1769, explorer James Cook encountered tattooing on Tahiti. The natives called it "tatau," which is where the current name "tattoo" comes from.

During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, tattoos began to garner interest at exhibits, fairs, and circuses. Tattoo parlors began popping up in port cities around the world and were used by European and American sailors. In 1891, Samuel O'Reilly patented the first electric tattooing tool in the United States. Tattoo pattern sheets from the United States became very influential around the world. Tattooing has declined in popularity in recent decades in many parts of the world, but there was a revival in Japan, Europe, and America beginning in the 1990s. The renaissance in tattoos and the push for wider acceptance is exemplified by the creation of celebrations like World Tattoo Day.

How to Observe World Tattoo Day

  • If you are a tattoo artist or have a tattoo studio, give away a free tattoo, offer deals in honor of the day, raffle off tattoos for charity, post some of your work on social media, share what some of your favorite pieces you have done are, and connect with other tattoo artists and support their work. Doing the work you love is one of the best ways to spend the day!
  • If you'd like a tattoo, think of a tattoo idea, make an appointment to get a tattoo, or get a tattoo. If you aren't quite ready to commit to a tattoo, you could get a temporary tattoo instead.
  • If you have tattoos, share with others—in person and on social media—about your tattoos, including details like what they signify and who the artists who made them are.
  • Go to a tattoo museum, such as the Baltimore Tattoo Museum.
  • Read a book about tattoos.
  • Learn about some noteworthy tattoo artists.
  • Explore the World Tattoo Day website, Instagram, and Facebook page.

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