National Paul Bunyan Day

According to Canadian folklore, Paul Bunyan is a folk hero who just so happens to be a giant lumberjack. In his stories, he’s accompanied by a giant ox known as Babe the Blue Ox. He was a character that began in the oral stories told at lumberjack camps in North America and was popularized by freelance writer William B. Laughead in 1916. Paul Bunyan is a character that has excited our collective imagination for over 100 years, and that’s why there’s a holiday called National Paul Bunyan Day, observed annually on June 28th.

The History of National Paul Bunyan Day

Throughout the 18th century, stories of Paul Bunyan spread from one North American logging camp to the next, with the stories being added to as the character evolved. No one knows why the character was given the name he was given, but one theory is that his last name comes from the Québécois expression “Bon Yenne!” a term that is an exclamation of surprise. All that is known is that at some point, Paul Bunyan went from a lone character to one that was accompanied by a giant blue-colored ox known as Babe the Blue Ox. According to legends, this ox was a gift from Daniel Boone and/or Davy Crockett.

A Paul Bunyan story was finally published in a 1904 edition of the Duluth News Tribune in Minnesota. Many of the elements known to exist in Paul Bunyan’s stories can be found in this story, including stove skating, blue snow, and the giant camp. In 1916, James MacGillivray wrote about Paul Bunyan in the 1910 American Lumberman, but it was William B. Laughead who popularized the character in 1916.

William Laughead was an advertising copywriter who used the folk character of Paul Bunyan in a pamphlet for the Red River Lumber Company. At first, he introduced the character as Paul Bunyan from Westwood, California, but that didn’t strike a chord with his intended audience, so he changed it to “Tales About Paul Bunyan, Vol. II.” This campaign was immensely popular, and Mr. Laughead took some liberties with the source material by changing some things and adding others. For example, he gave Paul Bunyan’s blue ox the name “Babe.” He also attributed the creation of several American natural wonders and landmarks to Paul Bunyan.

As for the creation of the holiday celebrating this character, no one really knows who created it. It seems to have appeared spontaneously on the internet sometime during the early 21st century. It’s now a holiday that’s observed by people just about everywhere.

Observing National Paul Bunyan Day

This day is a great day to tell your friends your favorite Paul Bunyan tales, dress in red checkered flannel, or make some flapjacks. You can also use the hashtag #NationalPaulBunyanDay to spread the word about this holiday to every corner of the internet. When you’re done with that, why not take a hike through your favorite forested area as Mr. Bunyan would have done? Have some fun with this fictional character and the holiday named after him.

When is it?
This year (2024)
June 28 Friday
Next year (2025)
June 28 Saturday
Last year (2023)
June 28 Wednesday
Culture & History