Some historically important questions have no absolute answers and never will; and so it is with Sadie Hawkins’ Day.
When is Sadie Hawkins’ Day?
It wasn’t just idle curiosity that drove me to do some research on this seemingly silly question. Sadie Hawkins’ Day is not to be confused with Leap Day or Leap Year Day (February 29th), also known as St. Bridget’s Complaint, which granted women permission, once every four years, to propose marriage on that day.
Instead, it was in Al Capp’s “Li’l Abner”, a very popular newspaper comic strip, that Sadie Hawkins’ Day first appeared on November 15th, 1937.
This storyline event, as depicted in the strip, properly a chase, was commonly referred to as the Sadie Hawkins’ Day Race. The race/chase, indicative of the day, was historically held on Sadie Hawkins’ Day proper.
The jarring role-reversal and hope inspiring concept of girls freed from the social mores and restraints of the day to chase and possibly even capture (the hearts of) favored boys proved so popular that similar events were soon organized across the country, mostly mimicking and mocking the race but ultimately evolving into the more sedate and acceptable Sadie Hawkins’ Dance, wherein girls were allowed to invite boys who were seemingly under social compulsion to attend.
Following the story line (both in the comic strip and also in real life) we find the chase always falling on Sadie Hawkins’ Day and the dance always preceding it the night before; sort of a Sadie Hawkins’ Eve.
As the story goes, the dance came about later and had a nefarious purpose:
The Sadie Hawkins Day dance was always held on the night before the race and the girls wore hob-nailed boots to trample on the feet of the bachelors, to impede their running the next day.
Over time, the race itself faded in popularity, replaced by the Sadie Hawkins’ Dance.
As an annual social event however, when exactly should the dance be held?
November 15th can fall on any day of the week so it’s not a good choice.
The dance is more properly the invention of those who were in charge of the social calendars of high schools, colleges, churches, etc., and dances therefore are usually consigned to the weekend – Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Fridays are generally hectic with schedules already crowded with other daytime activities in such institutions and if a race is actually held it must needs follow the dance. The logical choice for the dance would then be a Saturday with Sadie Hawkins’ Day celebrated on the Sunday following.
In order to accommodate both the dance and a possible race following the next day and still fall nearest November 15th, Sadie Hawkins’ Day would best be celebrated on the third Sunday of November with the dance the night before or, if the 15th falls on a Saturday, the dance could still be held on the Friday preceding.
In sequence: Sadie Hawkins’ Dance – Sadie Hawkins’ Day
As November 15th is the actual anniversary date but Saturday the preferred day to hold a dance (preceding a scheduled chase), a Sunday nearest November 15th would be the best choice for Sadie’ Hawkins’ Day.
The rule therefore (it doesn’t really matter) is the Sadie Hawkins’ dance is held on the second Saturday of November followed by Sadie Hawkins’ Day proper; except when the 15th falls on a Saturday, in which case the dance is held on the third Friday. Phew!
If the 15th falls on a Saturday you can forego the race and hold the dance on the actual anniversary of Sadie Hawkins’ Day or, as an alternative, have an afternoon dance with the race following. But hopefully nobody takes this stuff too seriously.
This great question arose but was left hanging forever by Al Capp himself.
In 1952, Capp wrote: “It’s become my responsibility [to include Sadie Hawkins Day every year in the strip.] It doesn’t happen on any set day in November; it happens on the day I say it happens. I get tens of thousands of letters from colleges, communities, and church groups, starting around July, asking me what day, so they can make plans.”
November 15th is the Anniversary of Sadie Hawkins’ Day.
The Sadie Hawkins’ Race was always held on Sadie Hawkins’ Day.
The Sadie Hawkins’ Dance is held on the eve of Sadie Hawkins’ Day.
The Sadie Hawkins’ dance is held on the second Saturday of November followed by Sadie Hawkins’ Day proper; except when the 15th falls on a Saturday, in which case the dance is held on the third Friday.
So, to sum it all up and answer the question:
When is Sadie Hawkins’ Day?
The third Sunday in November, relatively speaking.
So mark your calendars boys, wear steel-toed shoes, and hide in the haystack.
This could get ugly.