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Some Fascinating Literary Traditions

Post by: Sanjana Kapoor

I recently read about some cult literary traditions for literature fans. And I wish to share those with you today. But before I begin with the traditions and their essence, let me give you an idea of what literary tradition is.

As I tumbled upon recently, literary tradition is a collection of works that have an underlying interconnectedness and coherence. It is not simply a group of works sharing geography or group.
Writers may not belong to a particular place or era but still write meticulousy about certain traditions and age-old practices because they draw on the same references, structure, mythology, focal points for cultural meanings and historical moments. Their writing is inspired from the said tradition and their work inspires and draws the attention of future authors to carry on the legacy.

So now, coming to the literary traditions - We know that certain authors and books have an inerasable effect on us. They inspire us and at times we wish to express our appreciation by going beyond book clubs and period costumes. Some people incorporate it in to their life in different ways - like non-stop reading sessions, visiting grave sites, adorning period costumes in regular practice and many more.

Here are some examples:

The Poe Toaster


It is believed that for 60 years, every January 19th, on the anniversary of Edgar Allan Poe’s birthday, a mysterious figure would visit Poe’s grave in Baltimore, pour himself a glass of cognac, raise a toast to the author, and leave three red roses and the rest of the bottle of cognac at his gravestone before vanishing into the darkness. Soon, local Poe fans would gather to watch the mysterious figure(s) and read the cryptic notes he sometimes left behind.
But sadly in the last few years the mystery man hasn’t shown up, which leads us to believe that this tradition now comes to an end. Unless, of course, another Poe fan takes up the mantle.






Bloomsday, an annual holiday celebrating the life of James Joyce, is enjoyed every June 16th all over the world. This is accounted as one of the most famous cultish literary tradition. Celebrations include pub crawls, readings, music, dramatizations, and hundreds of fans dressed as characters from the book.





Muggle Quidditch




In 2005, the students of Middlebury College founded Muggle Quidditch as their pastime which in the recent past has drawn over 100 teams and 2,000 players. So all you Harry Potter fans, go ahead and take part in this exciting sport.






Hemingway Look-Alike Contest




This is yet another interesting activity for lit fans. Every summer, many white-bearded literary enthusiasts visit Key West to participate in the annual Papa look-alike contest at Sloppy Joe’s Bar. The contest is organized by the Hemingway Look-Alike Society.





Kissing Oscar Wilde’s Tomb



So we all know that Oscar Wilde’s tomb in Paris is visited by thousands of his fans every year. And as homage, pilgrims kiss the writer’s tomb before leaving.
“A kiss may ruin a human life,” wrote Wilde. It can also, apparently, ruin the stone blocks of a tomb. The cleaning and scrubbing of the tomb to cleanse it of the vast accumulation of lipstick markings began to irreparably erode the stone. The caretakers thus have erected a seven-foot plate glass wall to keep ardent admirers at a distance.

Towel Day


Fans of late author Douglas Adams pay tribute to the author by celebrating every 25 May as Towel Day
On this day, fans carry a towel with them to demonstrate their love for the books and the author, as referred to in Adams's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The commemoration was first held in 2001, two weeks after Adams's death on 11 May 2001.
According to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. After all, “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.”


The Jane Austen Festival




Every September, thousands of Austenophiles descend upon Bath, England, to spend a weekend dressed up as their favorite Jane Austen character. The events, organized by the Jane Austen Centre, range from promenading to eating to dancing and perusing the wares at the Country Fayre.





The Annual Moby Dick Marathon



Every year, the New Bedford Whaling Museum hosts a marathon continuous reading of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. They also have ventured in to live streaming of the event on the internet for participants and other Melville-related activities including an interactive quiz of “Stump the Scholars”.





Now there are many more traditions that I’m trying to dig out. But in case you get there before me, kindly share. Like I did.

(Inspired from:

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