Monkey Day is an unofficial holiday celebrated internationally on December 14th. While the holiday is mainly about monkeys, it also celebrates other non-human primates such as apes, tarsiers, and lemurs. The holiday was started in 2000 when artist Casey Sorrow, then an art student at Michigan State University, jokingly scribbled Monkey Day on a friend’s calendar, and then first celebrated the holiday with other MSU art students. It gained notoriety when Sorrow and fellow MSU art student Eric Millikin began including Monkey Day in their artwork and Fetus-X comic strips, and began promoting it online along with other artists. Since then, Monkey Day has been celebrated internationally, across countries like the U.S., Canada, Germany, and the United Kingdom.
It is described it as the “one day when monkey business is actually encouraged.” The holiday is primarily celebrated with costume parties intended to help draw attention to issues related to Primates including medical research, animal rights, and evolution.
A primate is a mammal of the order Primates (Latin: “prime, first rank”) primates include two distinct lineages, strepsirrhines and haplorhines. Primates arose from ancestors that lived in the trees of tropical forests; many primate characteristics represent adaptations to life in this challenging three-dimensional environment. Most primate species remain at least partly arboreal. Most primates live in tropical or subtropical regions of the Americas, Africa and Asia. They range in typical size from Madame Berthe’s mouse lemur, which weighs only 30 g (1 oz), to the eastern gorilla, weighing over 200 kg (440 lb). Based on fossil evidence, the earliest known true primates, represented by the genus Teilhardina, date to 55.8 mya. An early close primate relative known from abundant remains is the Late Paleocene Plesiadapis, c. 55–58 million years old. Molecular clock studies suggest that the primate branch may be even older, originating near the Cretaceous–Paleogene boundary or around 63–74 mya.
The order Primates was traditionally divided into two main groupings: prosimians and anthropoids (simians). Prosimians have characteristics more like those of the earliest primates, and include the lemurs of Madagascar, lorisoids, and tarsiers. Simians include monkeys and apes. More recently, taxonomists have preferred to split primates into the suborder Strepsirrhini, or wet-nosed primates, consisting of non-tarsier prosimians, and the suborder Haplorhini, or dry-nosed primates, consisting of tarsiers and the simians.
Simians are divided into two groups: catarrhine (narrow-nosed) monkeys and apes of Africa and Southeast Asia and platyrrhine (“flat-nosed”) or New World monkeys of South and Middle America. Catarrhines consist of Old World monkeys (such as baboons and macaques), gibbons and great apes; New World monkeys include the capuchin, howler and squirrel monkeys. Humans are the only extant catarrhines to have spread successfully outside of Africa, South Asia, and East Asia, although fossil evidence shows many other species were formerly present in Europe. New primate species are still being discovered. More than 25 species were taxonomically described in the decade of the 2000s and eleven have been described since 2010.
Primates exhibit a wide range of characteristics. Some primates (including some great apes and baboons) are primarily terrestrial rather than arboreal, but all species possess adaptations for climbing trees. Locomotion techniques used include leaping from tree to tree, walking on two or four limbs, knuckle-walking, and swinging between branches of trees (brachiation). Primates are characterized by large brains relative to other mammals, as well as an increased reliance on stereoscopic vision at the expense of smell, the dominant sensory system in most mammals. These features are more developed in monkeys and apes and noticeably less so in lorises and lemurs. Three-color vision has developed in some primates. Except for apes, they have tails. Most primates also have opposable thumbs. Many species are sexually dimorphic; differences include body mass, canine tooth size, and coloration. Primates have slower rates of development than other similarly sized mammals and reach maturity later, but have longer lifespans. Depending on the species, adults may live in solitude, in mated pairs, or in groups of up to hundreds of members.
During Monkey Day there are competitions to see who has the best costumes, who can act like a monkey the longest, or speed knitting of monkey dolls. The holiday cuts across religious boundaries and provides opportunities to share monkey stories and contemplate our simian relatives. Other Monkey Day activities include going on shopping sprees for Paul Frank “Julius the Monkey” fashions, eating Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey ice cream, and spending the day at the zoo.In 2005, Peter Jackson’s King Kong was released on the fifth anniversary of Monkey Day. King Kong and Planet of the Apes films are popular at Monkey Day parties. Monkey-themed songs, such as Major Lance’s “The Monkey Time”, are also part of Monkey Day festivities. Often, celebrations involve raising money for primate-related issues. In 2008, the official Monkey Day celebrations included an art show and silent auction to benefit the Chimps Inc. animal sanctuary; the show and auction included art by human artists as well as paintings from chimps Jackson and Kimie, residents of the sanctuary. The Biddle Gallery in Detroit also celebrated Monkey Day in 2008 with an annual Monkey Day art sale that included a free banana with each purchase.