In some religious traditions, January 5 is a feast say for St. Simeon, who was known as a pillar hermit.
He would spend most of his day up on a pillar in prayer, which inspired other stylites, as they were known, for centuries.
Sitting atop something tall for long periods of time is something you’ll see all over human history.
About a century ago, in the 1920s, one of the popular fads was flagpole sitting.
People became famous for spending days, weeks and even months up there, though that fame came with the risk of falling off a pole, or maybe even getting hit by lightning.
Records were set and records were broken, but if it’s competition you want, then you’ll want to head to the Netherlands, for what’s known as Paalzitten.
The origins of the sport are murky, possibly an attempt to make a sport out of readily available objects, but the rules are pretty straightforward.
Competitors get up on evenly spaced out poles, usually suspended over water, and… sit there.
They’re only eliminated if they fall off or decide they’ve had enough.
Modern Paalzitten competitions allow for bathroom breaks, but in the 1970s, sitting on the pole meant sitting on the pole, and nothing else.
Organizers would hang a big banner to give participants some privacy as they attended to that most personal of business.
It should be said that attracting crowds to watch Paalzitten can be difficult.
A few hardy people are willing to spend hours and hours atop a pole to attain a victory, but watching other people do so was more difficult.
Today is also National Bird Day, and here’s one for the record books: the shoebill is a good-sized bird that looks something like a pelican mixed with a dragon.
Among its qualities: it hunts crocodiles (seriously) and will greet others of its kind by making a sound like a machine gun.
I will always be polite to these birds!
St. Simeon Stylites (Britannica)
In the Netherlands Sitting on a Pole for Hours on End Is a Competitive Sport (Oddity Central)
The Shoebill: Or, the Most Terrifying Bird in the World (Audubon)
We would sit on a pole for our Patreon backers!
Polesitting championship photo by FotoCaster via Flickr/Creative Commons