One of the most popular online forums for pipe smokers is Smokers Forums, based in the UK and still going strong after many years with a world-wide membership. I've managed to modulate the compulsion, but for years I couldn't start a workday without browsing Smokers Forums and seeing what was happening in the world of pipe enthusiasts. It made me feel incomplete and undereducated to attempt a day without first reading the insights, stories, advice, and experiences of my fellow pipe smokers.
The Origins of IPSD
In 2008, Smokers Forums launched what would become for many of us a particularly significant event: International Pipe Smoking Day. It's held every February 20, with this year being the 14th annual celebration.
The date was chosen because it is the anniversary of the launch of Smokers Forums, but its purpose is much larger: to bring pipe smokers together in a day of solidarity and acknowledgement.
Like all new events, IPSD started slowly, beginning with local pipe clubs who organized in-person events to celebrate the day. As the word spread, retailers began applying discounts for the day and building promotions to support it. Here at Smokingpipes, for example, IPSD is among our favorite traditions and we've historically celebrated with site-wide discounts across both pipes and tobaccos. With both clubs and retailers recognizing the holiday, celebrations naturally grew around the world.
Pipe Smokers are Social Beings
Pipe smoking tends to be a solitary pursuit, especially since smoking regulations have become ubiquitous. Seeing pipe smokers in the wild is becoming a rare event because our own homes are about the only places to enjoy our smoking. Every other year or so I spot one driving, but our grandfathers and those before them experienced smoking everywhere they went: restaurants, airplanes, hospital waiting rooms, elevators, grocery stores — pipe smokers were everywhere. At one time, nearly half of adult males smoked pipes. We no longer have that. We're isolated.
We do have social outlets, though, and perhaps the most obvious is pipe shows. Having a weekend to smoke as much as one wants, while swimming in the smoke of dozens of like-minded individuals, is an exhilarating experience, one that counteracts that vague impression of isolation. Pipe smokers are spread thinly across the maps of the world, and when we converge on a single location like a pipe show, it alters our metaphysical perceptions. It causes a positive disruption in the Force. There's always a feeling of excitement when pipe smokers gather.
There are avid pipe enthusiasts across the world, though; far more than can fit in any pipe show's smoking tent. Imagine many of them, on the same day, validating the pipe community, acknowledging the fellowship in good cheer, and raising a bowl of smoldering tobacco in affirmation of the global fraternity of pipe smokers.
International Pipe Smoking Day affords us that opportunity to connect with each other. In pipe shops, pipe club meetings, and online venues, pipe smokers celebrate the hobby and those who pursue it.
It's an actual, official day. You probably won't find it on a calendar, not like Mother's Day or Arbor Day, but it's been acknowledged and facilitated by the Comite International des Pipe Clubs, with memberships in 25 countries. That includes the U.S. and the United Pipe Clubs of America (UPCA). That organization was launched in 2002, and since then the UPCA has promoted American pipe smoking by helping new clubs organize and by supporting pipe shows and pipe smoking contests. The annual UPCA slow smoking championship is traditionally held at the Chicago pipe show in May of each year to determine the American champion who will compete internationally. If you've been to the show, you may have noticed it being held in the smoking tent on the Sunday of each show. Then again, you may not have noticed; it is not an engaging spectator sport. It looks like a couple of dozen tables of pipe smokers smoking and conversing, just like any other time during the show, except they have a clock and a UPCA representative with a microphone regularly announcing the time.
It's an official organization, and it recognizes International Pipe Smoking Day, so maybe we'll eventually see it identified on calendars. It should be a national holiday, but that may be too much to expect. Still, there are all kinds of official days that are, in my estimate, inferior to IPSD, like National Popcorn Day, or Bird Day, or International Carrot Day (these are all real). I have nothing against popcorn or birds or carrots, but International Pipe Smoking Day has them beat.
Many tobacco shops also recognize the significance of the day with sales and discounts, each tobacconist with their own particular promotions, including Smokingpipes. Sales are fun, and it's traditional for special days to be commemorated by retail stores.
However, it's the pipe enthusiasts who truly make the day official. Pipe clubs worldwide meet, and there are lots of clubs, all with members proud to be pipe smokers. We're an impressive number, more than anyone could guess after casual observation of the social environment. Thousands and thousands will gather in smaller groups, and thousands more will celebrate individually.
That's how I celebrate IPSD. Once the day has settled, I sit in my comfortable reading chair and smoke a favorite pipe, and in my imagination I send its smoke across the world to find other pipe smoke wherever it may be, to mingle and add to the clouds produced by smokers on six continents. Maybe seven.
And I feel that I'm part of something pretty big. I feel that I'm meeting with interesting people who share my passion for pipes and tobaccos. Maybe not physically, maybe not linguistically, but I know you're out there. I can smell the Latakia and the Burley, the Aromatics and the Virginias. I hope you'll join me this Saturday in celebrating International Pipe Smoking Day, or if you're reading this afterward, it's nice to see you again, friend.