It was first proposed in 2001, just a few days after his death. A celebration in a very Hitch Hiker tradition of silliness.
The day has no connection to the great man. When the idea was first started, the internet was asked and today was the winner. A better day could have been the 42nd day of the year or 42 days after his death. His birthday was another day suggested but ultimately rejected.
Today was selected basically because it was close enough to Douglas’ death and far enough away so the first celebrations could be organised.
The celebration is simple. Just carry a towel and be a hoopy frood. Someone who knows where his towel is!
It started out small and over the years it’s not only Douglas fans that have got evolved in events. The Norwegian public transport company, Kolumbus, helped the impoverished hitch hiker by giving away a limited number of towels. These contained a RFID tag that gave the owner a free journey on any method of public transport for the day. The same year, 2013, the Chevy Chase branch of DC public library offered a special prize for anyone who wore a towel on the day.
There maybe an event to celebrate this great day near you. Just head over to the towel day website and check. You can always run one if there isn’t one nearby. There are events all around the world. From Argentina to the United States.
I leave you with what Douglas wrote about the towel in Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy.
A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.
More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitchhiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have “lost.” What the strag will think is that 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.
Hence a phrase that has passed into hitchhiking slang, as in “Hey, you sass that hoopy Ford Prefect? There’s a frood who really knows where his towel is.” (Sass: know, be aware of, meet, have sex with; hoopy: really together guy; frood: really amazingly together guy.)