International Mermaid Day
Written by Jessica Lal on March 29, 2023
Have you always had an affinity with the ocean? Felt the pull of the tides and wondered what lies beneath the waves in the depths of the sea? Then you’ll love diving into International Mermaid Day and celebrating these mystical mer-people! With their ancient roots and significance in cultures all over the world. Mermaids continue to intrigue and enchant us to this day…
Depictions of strange creatures, half human, half fish, have been around for eons. Dating back thousands of years to the Old Babylonian Period. While tales of these mysterious water-dwellers first sprung up in Assyria around 3,000 years ago.
Our modern-day conception of mermaids was highly influenced by the sirens of Ancient Greek mythology. Although these beings were originally conceived as half woman, half bird, they were believed to possess many of the qualities that have been associated with mermaids over the centuries. Enchanting beauty, heavenly singing, the ability to control the waves and the wind and a treacherous tendency to lure sailors to their deaths. Over time evolved into the half woman, half fish form we’re now familiar with.
History of International Mermaid Day
Aside from myth and legend, another possible explanation for the prevalence of mermaids in human history is the variety of marine life that, from a distance or at a glance, could be mistaken for fish-like people, in particular seals and manatees. For example, the famous explorer Christopher Columbus claimed to have sighted three mermaids – he noted they were uglier than expected, which is no surprise when you consider that it’s now commonly believed he actually just spotted some manatees!
Supposed mermaid sightings still occur to this day however, and they are so sought after that there have even been fraudulent merfolk put on display. Perhaps the most well-known hoax is that of a “mermaid” from Fiji exhibited in the first half of the 19th century, originally in London and then by the famous circus master P.T. Barnum in the US.
Despite their widespread popularity, International Mermaid Day only began fairly recently in 2018 – founded by the Freeform TV network, the date was chosen to mark the premier of their new series Siren. To celebrate, they also hosted a Hollywood mermaid museum in collaboration with PopSugar, complete with a “live” mermaid, and donated to the non-profit organization Heal the Bay, which works to protect Los Angeles’s coastline.
International Mermaid Day is now celebrated all over the world – by getting involved you’ll be continuing a long tradition of humankind’s fascination with our enchanting watery counterparts.
The cultural prevalence of mermaids
There are various versions and interpretations of mermaids all over the world. From the Cornish tale of a mermaid who falls in love with a chorister to the Javanese sea goddess who sometimes takes the form of a mermaid, from the Rusalkas of Slavic culture, troubled water spirits of young women who have died sudden or gruesome deaths, to the sea people in the Arabic One Thousand and One Nights tales, one thing’s for sure – mermaids abound everywhere!
Alongside the different forms they’re believed to take, their temperament also varies depending on who you speak to. Some depictions portray them as dangerous creatures, harbingers of storms and able to lure people to their deaths with their terribly beautiful singing, while others see them as benevolent, magical beings, revealing gifts such as treasure and bringing good fortune to those they encounter.
Perhaps the most well-known depiction is Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale The Little Mermaid, later adapted into a popular Disney movie of the same name. In honor of this beloved story, the city of Copenhagen in Denmark, his native country, is home to a statue of the mermaid in question, and plenty of other places have similar sculptures.
Due to their association with seafarers such as sailors and pirates, mermaids are common heraldry on the prows of ships. And the coffee giant Starbucks, named after the chief mate in whaling tale Moby Dick, features a double-tailed mermaid, known as a melusine, on its logo.
Nowadays there is even a hobby known as mermaiding in which enthusiasts dress up as these elegant creatures and go swimming, performing various routines and acrobatics underwater!
How to celebrate International Mermaid Day
There are plenty of ways to get stuck in and celebrate International Mermaid Day, and it’s especially great for getting kids involved.
Children’s entertainment companies will often offer mermaid-themed parties and a chance to meet with a “real life” mermaid character such as Disney’s Ariel. They’ll likely put on a great spread of food, drink and decorations inspired by the sea.
If you’re feeling especially ambitious, you could even try throwing a party of your own! There are plenty of mermaid cake designs available online along with other sea-themed snack ideas such as starfish cookies, jelly pots and treasure chests filled with sweeties. And you can find shimmering costumes in most fancy-dress shops or have a go at fashioning your own!
Another great way to celebrate with children is to bring out their creative sides with shell and sand art. Even if you don’t live near a beach, you can still get shells and sand from local craft stores or online and transform them into pretty artworks complete with spray paint, glitter and whatever else you want to throw at them! Sand sculptures are another popular hobby – all you need is a sandpit, water and some fairly rudimentary tools.
Take the time to enjoy your favorite mermaid movies and TV shows or snuggle up and share a good fairytale with your friends and family.
If you really want to channel your inner mermaid, then head on over to your local swimming pool or beach and take a dip! Sunbathe on a rock and bring your goggles and snorkel so that you can keep an eye out for treasure buried beneath the ocean’s surface (or in the corner of the pool!). If you’re a confident swimmer, try out some underwater acrobatics to emulate the beauty and grace of these magical creatures.
And if you want to help protect mermaids (or at least the aquatic creatures such as seals and manatees that likely inspired them!), then why not go on a beach litter pick and take steps to reduce your plastic consumption? Donate to a charity that protects marine life or works to rid the ocean of damaging pollutants.
Whatever you do to honor these magical merfolk, put out a siren call and inspire your friends, family, colleagues and social media followers to celebrate International Mermaid Day with you!