International Town Criers Day Date in the current year: July 8, 2024

International Town Criers Day International Town Criers Day is observed annually on the second Monday of July. It celebrates a profession that is often thought to be extinct, but this is just a common misconception. While the profession is certainly a rarity these days, town criers still exist and even hold annual competitions.

Town criers, also known as bellmen, are officers of a royal court or public authority tasked with making public announcements as required. Back in the day, when there was no radio, television or internet and very few people were literate, town criers played a central role in spreading news and keeping the townspeople up to date with the latest events and important decrees.

The history of town criers can be traced back to ancient times. In ancient Greece, heralds would be sent to towns to announce the beginning of a war. In ancient Rome, town criers proclaimed public business during the nundinae (market days that formed a kind of weekend every eight days).

In medieval Europe, town criers were the chief source of news for the townspeople. They proclaimed market days, local bylaws, adverts, royal proclamations, etc. Since town criers sometimes brought bad news that drew the ire of the townspeople, they were protected by law. Harming a town crier was considered an act of treason because anything said or down by the town crier was said or done in the monarch’s name.

To get people’s attention, town criers used handbells (hence the name “bellman”), gongs, drums, hunting horns, and other devices. In English-speaking countries, town criers shouted the word “Oyez!” two or three times in quick succession before making an announcement. It was a call for silence and attention derived from the Anglo-Normal word for “listen”.

Town criers are often associated with a recognizable and elaborate uniform consisting of a tricorne hat, a red and gold coat, white breeches, and black boots, but this dress is a relatively modern invention. Town criers started wearing elaborate dress around the 18th century.

European colonists brought the profession of the town crier to the New World. There are records of town criers in Canada, Mexico, Panama, Peru, and the United States. Outside of Europe and the Americas, town criers used to be prominent in parts of Asia and Africa.

The need for town criers had disappeared by the early 20th century, when newspapers became readily available and most people were literate. However, the profession itself hasn’t disappeared completely. Some cities and towns in Europe, North American and Australia have town criers purely for ceremonial and tourism purposes. Modern town criers have professional guilds and hold competitions.

International Town Criers Day was founded in 1997 by Scott Fraser, a town crier from Waterloo, Ontario. You can celebrate this amazing holiday by learning more about notable town criers, watching town crier videos on YouTube, attending a town crier competition or a Renaissance festival if there is one near you, and spreading the word about the holiday on social media with the hashtags #InternationalTownCriersDay and #TownCriersDay.

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