Towel Day 2024: What's the deal with towels in 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy?'

a man with a towel over his shoulder stands beside a robot looking out into space
A portion of the poster for the 2005 film adaptation of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy." (Image credit: Disney)

Today is Towel Day, that officially recognized revelry of rags that breaks out each year on May 25 amid the quirky fandom of author Douglas Adams and his satirical 1979 sci-fi masterpiece, "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy."

If you don't understand all this fuss about towels, don't panic! We've got you covered.

This special occasion is meant to honor Adams' life and the legacy of laughs he left behind in the wake of that most irreverent of all interstellar reference materials,  "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy."

The 1979 book was followed by four others that make up the "Hitchhikers' Guide" series: "The Restaurant at the End of the Universe" (1980), "Life, the Universe and Everything" (1982), "So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish" (1984) and "Mostly Harmless" (1992). 

Related: Today is Towel Day! Salute the legacy of 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' author Douglas Adams

For Adams, the number 42 is the answer to the "ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything." (Image credit: Mica Murphy / Penguin)

Adams and his clever works remain a touchstone for creative thinkers, visionary inventors, intrepid astronauts, ambitious aerospace engineers, imaginative scientists and anyone with an adventurous spirit around the globe.

And the towel is an instrument of immense pride among the legions of Adams faithful: They'll be toting their precious towels today, in keeping with the seminal 1979 novel's declaration that these minimalist cloth miracles are "just about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have."

As the novel explains: "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 vapors; 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-boggingly 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."

Author Douglas Adams in January 1985 in Great Britain.  (Image credit: Getty Images; Photo by Ed Kashi/Liaison)

Towel Day has been religiously observed every year since it was founded on May 25, 2001, just two weeks after Adams' untimely death at the age of 49.

Rituals undertaken on Towel Day include posting personal pics with the indispensable piece of cloth on social media (along with the hashtag #TowelDay), sharing favorite quotes, revisiting the books and the original radio plays they were based on, gathering with like-minded acolytes, entering cosplay contests, posting on forums, attending bad poetry readings, and hosting a screening of the classic 1981 BBC TV series or the 2005 Hollywood film adaptation, which stars Martin Freeman as Arthur Dent.

 For Adams fans across the universe, we hope you have a joyous Towel Day 2024!

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Jeff Spry
Contributing Writer

Jeff Spry is an award-winning screenwriter and veteran freelance journalist covering TV, movies, video games, books, and comics. His work has appeared at SYFY Wire, Inverse, Collider, Bleeding Cool and elsewhere. Jeff lives in beautiful Bend, Oregon amid the ponderosa pines, classic muscle cars, a crypt of collector horror comics, and two loyal English Setters.