National Trivia Day
Also known as
Intergalactica Trivia Day
annually on January 4th
Robert L. Birch in 1980
Here's a piece of trivia for you. Which holiday, first celebrated in 1980, was founded by Robert L. Birch, a former librarian at the National Agricultural Library, the founder of the Puns Corp, and a resident of Falls Church, Virginia? Answer? National Trivia Day! National Trivia Day celebrates trivia as well as "those who know all sorts of facts and/or have doctorates in uselessology."
Trivia is made up of obscure facts, often about pop culture. To some, it is considered to be useless information. The word "trivia" has Latin roots. It is the plural form of the word trivium, which means "place where three roads meet," "in transferred use," and "an open place, a public space." The adjective form of the word, trivialis, means "public." The word took on the connotation of being about "fun facts" following the 1902 release of the book Trivialities: Bits of Information of Little Consequence. In its early years, trivia was viewed more as entertainment for an individual, but in recent years has become more of a social experience.
Trivia was an important component of the 1940s radio quiz show Take It or Leave it. Its name was later changed to The $64 Question, and it became the basis for the television show The $64.000 Dollar Question. Other popular television quiz shows of the 1950s were Dotto and Twenty-One, but quiz shows of this era were marred in scandal and then fell out of favor. Jeopardy! went on the air in 1964, and its popularity soared when it went into daily syndication in 1984 and Alex Trebek became host, a post he held till his death in 2020 (his final show was broadcast in early 2021). Another popular trivia television show from the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries is Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.
The oldest college trivia contest, or quiz bowl, the Great Midwest Trivia Contest, has been held at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, since 1966. Ed Goodgold and Dan Carlinsky of Columbia University also created an intercollegiate quiz bowl that year and wrote a book, Trivia, which became a New York Times best seller. The world's largest annual trivia contest is hosted by WWSP 89.9, the radio station at the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point. Not only have colleges been the home to radio quiz bowls, but trivia nights have been commonplace there, particularly in the 1960s.
Trivia games also became a common type of board games, most notably with Trivial Pursuit. Released in 1981, it broadened the public's interest in trivia and reached the height of its popularity in 1984 when 20 million copies were sold. Many editions followed the classic version.
Drinking establishments are another popular spot for trivia. Pub quizzes became common in the United Kingdom in the 1970s, and bar trivia is popular today throughout the United States and the world. Trivia is often used as an opener at other events—as an attention grabber for the main event—such as at meetings in the workplace. From books to college campuses, from radio to television, and from board games to barrooms, trivia has permeated a wide swath of life, and we celebrate it and experts of it today!
How to Observe National Trivia Day
- Watch a trivia show such as Jeopardy!
- Play a trivia board game such as the classic edition of Trivial Pursuit or one of the many other Trivial Pursuit editions.
- Play some bar trivia.
- Sign up to take part in a trivia contest.
- Some newspapers and other organizations host trivia contests in honor of the day, so keep your eyes peeled for ways to take part.
- Pick up a trivia book.
- Download a trivia game for your phone.
- Make up your own trivia game, challenge others to a trivia contest, or host a trivia game night.