MonJul 12

International Town Criers Day – July 12, 2021

While this may come as surprising news to many, International Town Criers Day, which falls on July 12 this year, is indeed a thing. It is celebrated on the second Monday of every year. Confused about what exactly a town crier is? We were too, as the term itself is one that has passed into posterity and is now archaic (much like the job itself). Also known as a bellman, a town crier was basically an officer of a royal court or public authority, whose job was to grab everyone’s attention in the streets in order to make official proclamations or announcements to the general public. While we’re not sure how effective this was, it must have been a weighty task indeed, and not for those prone to stage fright or afraid of large crowds. Who or what might be the modern equivalent of the  ‘town crier’ today though? We’ll leave you to chew that over for a bit!

History of International Town Criers Day

Town criers do not get enough attention, or the recognition they are due, which is why the first International Town Criers Day was founded in 1997 by a town crier himself — Scott Fraser, of Waterloo, Ontario. Despite the importance that his vocation held, Fraser discovered that there was no official day to celebrate his job, and that of many before him, which is why he decided to establish one. Since then, International Town Criers Day aims to bring this profession into the limelight, in order to highlight how town criers have contributed to societies and the importance of their role in disseminating essential information to the general public. 

The earliest town criers can be traced back to the ancient Greeks, where heralds would be sent to announce the onset of war. Fun fact, the word ‘stentorian’ (meaning ‘loud and powerful’, relating to voice) comes from the name of a Greek town crier named Stentor, who was said to have had the “voice of 50 men.” In medieval England, town criers were essential in keeping the general populace apprised of important news and current affairs, and they would begin their cry with the words “Oyez, oyez,” which roughly translates from French to ‘hear ye, hear ye.’

Every country had its form of a town crier before the invention of newspapers and the spread of literacy. Thus, the job of the town crier was prestigious because they had to be literate and were responsible for ensuring that people were made aware of important news. Sometimes these officials were the bearers of bad news and therefore needed protection from crowds that would want to ‘shoot the messenger.’ So laws were passed that declared it treason to kill a town crier. In fact, the phrase “don’t shoot the messenger” stems from the command to protect town criers. 

International Town Criers Day timeline

1000s
First-Known Town Criers in Britain

Town criers are employed to spread the news all over Britain of the invasion of William of Normandy.

1900s
Town Crier Competitions are Held

The first town crier competitions are held across Western nations.

1970s
The Town Crier Role is Revived

In Britain, the post of town crier is officially revived by councils and guilds.

1997
The First International Town Criers Day is Observed

The first International Town Criers Day is founded by Scott Fraser of Waterloo, Ontario, a town crier in the 1980s.

International Town Criers Day FAQs

Do town criers get paid?

Town criers get paid to make an appearance these days. Although ‘cries’ for charity events normally fall under their regular duties. 

What does a town crier say?

After ringing their bell to capture everyone’s attention, the town crier would begin by saying “Oyez, oyez, oyez,” which can be translated from the French that means ‘hark’ or ‘listen.’ They would then make whatever announcement or proclamation they had written down. 

What is a town crier called today?

Town criers are actually still called that today, ever since the position was revived all over Britain since the 1970s. 

International Town Criers Day Activities

  1. Be a town crier for the day

    Shake things up a bit by making all announcements (or anything really) in a loud, firm, and declarative manner. This can also be a great way to educate folks around you about the importance of the town crier and why they are worthy of a day paying tribute to them. Make it more fun by playing dress-up and renting out a town crier’s livery.

  2. Research town criers

    Do a little digging to unearth information about the different kinds of town criers that have existed across cultures and nations. Find out what was similar and what was different, and the impact that town criers had on their communities.

  3. Attend a town crier championship

    Across Europe, North America, and Australia, various town crier championships are held and a World Championship occurs every alternate year, too. With categories ranging from ‘Best Dressed’ to ‘Loudest,’ these oddball events are sure to be memorable, so find out more about the next upcoming town crier championship nearest to you.

5 Different Forms Of Town Criers In Countries Across The World

  1. India

    Town criers would beat a drum in the village center and proclaim news on behalf of the village headman.

  2. Nepal

    The Nepali term for town crier was ‘katuwal’ (derived from Tibetan for ‘voice’ and the suffix for ‘person’), and they would make local announcements for labor, too.

  3. Sri Lanka

    ‘Ana bera’ was the term used in Sri Lanka for announcements accompanied by drum beats, which is how news was disseminated.

  4. Nigeria

    The Igbo tribe would beat a special drum and news would be announced.

  5. Netherlands

    Town criers would ring a gong and make their announcements.

Why We Love International Town Criers Day

  1. It honors the town crier profession

    We can see now just how important the role of the town crier really was throughout the ages when the general populace was not literate and education remained elitist. Not only was the job dangerous (not to mention taxing), it could take a toll on the vocal cords, as well as make you less popular with people if you’re the bearer of bad news. Imagine a world where all your news reached you through the mouth of one spokesperson — this is why we must appreciate and give town criers their due recognition.

  2. It highlights the importance of media

    The role of town criers enables us to think further about the importance of widespread literacy and technological advancements that have changed the world as a whole. Though the media now makes the role of the town crier redundant, it can also make us aware of the fact that not all places in the world have literacy, and there are many communities that still rely on word of mouth to stay up to date with the latest news.

  3. It’s competitive fun

    All over Europe, North America, and Australia, town crier championships are held, and they give people a chance to participate in an immersive experience by putting themselves in the shoes (and livery) of a town crier for a day. Not only are these competitions fun, but they also highlight the importance of present-day town criers, too.

International Town Criers Day dates

YearDateDay
2022July 11Monday
2023July 10Monday
2024July 8Monday
2025July 14Monday

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