Monkey Day

Monkey Day - Thursday, December 14, 2023

Cause Awareness Wildlife

What is Monkey Day?

December 14 is Monkey Day! We may look just a bit different from our primate pals, but we shouldn’t forget that we share a common ancestor with them in chimpanzees! Warm up those vocal cords and get ready to unleash your wildest calls and cries in observance of this holiday, which celebrates not just monkeys, but everything simian. 

History of Monkey Day

It’s a difficult task to pinpoint the exact moment that monkeys first emerged as a unique species within the animal kingdom, but it is believed that their appearance took place approximately 60 million years ago. This vast amount of time would pass, month by year by millenia, both creeping and speeding along, without the existence of a National Monkey Day! At long last, though, thanks to two pioneering college students, this would change in the year 2000. 

Casey Sorrow and Erik Millikin, both studying art at Michigan State University, are responsible for the creation of this simian-centric celebratory day. Sorrow (fittingly) would admit to the Detroit Metro Times that he experienced a form of malaise around the holiday season and felt compelled to find a way to combat these December blues. After jokingly jotting down “Monkey Day” in a friend’s calendar, Sorrow took the idea and ran with it: when December 14th rolled around, he and his art school friends dressed up as monkeys and ran amok, putting on their best monkey impressions.

They would go on to incorporate ideas related to their newly-formed holiday into their artwork and homemade comics. Publishing these pieces online allowed for the notion of a Monkey Day to spread, and now, decades on, the day is observed throughout the world in countries including Germany, India, and Thailand. 

What started out as a bit of fun has evolved into a full-blown operation. Monkey Day serves as an important anniversary each year for raising awareness of modern threats to monkeys, with entities such as National Geographic, the Smithsonian Institution, and Greenpeace promoting the day. Sorrow and Millikin have also been instrumental in utilizing monkey-themed art as vehicles to serve this end, as well. Their work has brought an entirely new understanding to the term “monkey business!”

Monkeys are interesting creatures – cute, mischievous, and sometimes downright obnoxious (anyone who disagrees has obviously never had their laundry torn down by a family of primates when it’s hanging to dry). Many species of primates are also endangered, and then there are questions of animal rights and the usage of primates in medical research. That’s why there’s Monkey Day, a day that’s been dedicated to raising awareness about non-human primates.

Learn about Monkey Day

Monkey Day has been created to celebrate monkeys, as well as “all things simian,” which includes lemurs, tarsiers, apes, and other non-human primates. It is a great day when it comes to raising awareness about different types of monkeys and primates around the world, as well as the issues they face and how we can help them. 

Environmental activists and animal rights activities are especially vocal and passionate about this date. The same goes for art institutions and visual artists. Supporters and celebrates of this date include the Smithsonian Institution, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Louvre Museum, London’s National Portrait Gallery, National Geographic, Greenpeace, and Jane Goodall. 

History of Monkey Day

Back in 2000, Casey Sorrow was an art student at Michigan State University, and he ended up writing “Monkey Day” on his friend’s calendar as a prank. But then they actually celebrated the occasion with other art students at MSU, and Sorrow later started collaborating with fellow MSU student on the Fetus-X comic strip, where the holiday was mentioned and popularized. Since then, Monkey Day has been observed internationally as a day to celebrate primates (including monkeys, but also apes, lemurs, and tarsiers).

Sorrow himself still does much to promote the holiday and the cause of primate welfare, and in addition to the Monkey Day website, he also maintains a “Monkeys in the News” blog which discusses primate-related news around the world and comes out with a list of the top ten primate-related news stories from the past year every Monkey Day.

Since Monkey Day was created, it really has gone from strength-to-strength. It is now celebrated in many different corners of the world. This includes Scotland, Turkey, Thailand, Colombia, the United Kingdom, Estonia, Pakistan, India, Germany, and Canada. It has been described by the Washington Post as a day to do the following:

“Learn something about these adorable and highly intelligent primates. Or you could use this day to act like a monkey.”

How to celebrate Monkey Day

You could simply dress up in a monkey costume and play the part, because there are some people who do just that for Monkey Day and even hold competitions for it. Or you could spend the day at the zoo, because many zoos around the world do hold special celebrations for Monkey Day. Some of these events focus on educational events about monkeys, while others do things like auction off artwork created by chimps and performing intelligence tests on primates.

Even if a local zoo in your area is not hosting an event on this date, we would definitely recommend taking a trip to your nearby zoo and spending some time with the animals. Make sure you do take a look at their calendar beforehand, as zoos all around the world have special activities and talks going on. For example, at Australia’s National Zoo & Aquarium, they hold a number of educational talks and activities that are designed to raise money for endangered species, such as Cotton-top Tamarins in Columbia, as well as increasing awareness.

In Scotland, at the famous Edinburgh Zoo, they raise awareness about the different dangers that primates face by using monkey storytelling. Monkey Day events are also held at The Faruk Yalçın Zoo and Botanical Park in Darıca, Turkey to raise awareness. In India, the Indira Gandhi Zoological Park holds a number of different programs so that children can become educated about issues facing wildlife and so that people are encouraged to adopt monkeys. The list doesn’t end there either. In Pakistan, the Lahore Zoo really goes the extra mile. They hold educational events and art competitions about monkeys, including performances to highlight the threats they face, poetry readings about monkeys, and much more. 

Even if you don’t have a monkey at your house, you might consider throwing a monkey day party, inviting all of your friends over (keep in mind that humans are in fact primates too, even without gorilla costumes), and common activities at such celebrations involve films such as King Kong, Planet of the Apes, and Lady Iron Monkey, as well as monkey-themed music (The Monkees, anyone?).

Often, celebrations involve fundraising for primate-related causes and charities, and many organizations around the world dedicated to primates hold Monkey Day events of various sorts. So when Monkey Day comes around, get out there and do it proper, by monkeying around!

Finally, another way that you can celebrate Monkey Day is by watching a film based on this primate! There are so many different types of monkey films. Of course, the Planet of the Apes series of films is the most well-known, but there are many others. Disney’s Monkey Kingdom comes highly recommended. Other famous monkeys on our screens include the Chain-Smoking Capuchin in The Hangover Part II, Clyde in Every Which Way But Loose, Cheeta in Tarzan the Ape Man, George in Curious George, Joe in Mighty Joe Young, and King Louie in The Jungle Book.

Monkey Day timeline


Monkey Mail

Erik Millikin sends several works of Monkey Day themed mail to strangers; among the recipients were Koko (the gorilla that can use sign language) and then-president Barack Obama.


Fit for a King

Peter Jackson’s 2005 film King Kong is released on the fifth anniversary of Monkey Day.


Dawn of Creation

Casey Sorrow and Erik Millikin celebrate the inaugural Monkey Day with their fellow classmates at Michigan State University.

Traditions of National Monkey Day

Create Monkey-Themed Art

The first Monkey Day may have been just a few college kids getting together to monkey around, but the day gained popularity because of the art produced by Sorrow and Millikin. Carry on this tradition by painting or drawing some monkey art of your own!

Make Monkey-Shaped Foods

Bananas are the first food that come to mind when we think of monkeys, and cooking up some banana muffins wouldn’t be out of place on this day. You could also bake monkey-shaped cookies, or, if you want to get even further from a monkey’s natural diet, scoop up some Chunky Monkey Ben and Jerry’s ice cream!

Monkey Day FAQs

What is national Monkey Day?

National Monkey Day is a day dedicated entirely to celebrating monkeys everywhere! It was started by a group of ambitious and fun-loving college students in 2000. 

Why do we celebrate Monkey Day?

We celebrate Monkey Day not only to give monkey-lovers the chance to voice their affection for these animals, but also to help raise awareness for the challenges facing the continued existence of monkeys in the world.

Which day is celebrated on 14th December?

National Monkey Day is celebrated on the 14th of December, along with National Free Shipping Day and National Bouillabaisse Day! 

National Monkey Day Stats

2 main groups of monkey

Not all monkeys are considered to be a part of the same whole; they are often separated into two groups: Old World monkeys live in Africa and Asia, while New World monkeys live in South America.

120 grams 

The pygmy marmoset species is the smallest type of monkey; fully-grown adults weigh between only 120 and 140 grams. The are considered a New World monkey and are generally found throughout countries located in the Amazon basin.

262 species of monkey

There are 262 species of monkey in the world, half of which are currently engangered.

Monkey Day Activities

  1. Primate, donate, celebrate

    Help collect funds to support ethical animal research, primate awareness programs, or preserves for aging monkeys.

  2. Go to the zoo

    It’s fun to watch the animals we love so much, and many zoos around the country will have special programs and initiatives that focus specifically on monkeys during the week of December 14th!

  3. Consume monkey media

    From Curious George to Aladdin’s Abu, entertainment featuring primates can be fun for the whole family. So find an ape-propriate film and get watching!

Why We Love Monkey Day

  1. It’s a great day to monkey around

    Feel free to interpret Monkey Day in a less literal way and use it as an opportunity to cut loose! Goof off, mess around, keep it fun… Everyone needs a good excuse to get silly sometimes!

  2. It raises much-needed awareness

    Though not everyone may know it, half of the 262 species of monkey in the world are threatened with extinction. Monkey Day plays an important role in educating people about the present dangers these animals face.

  3. Monkeys are cute

    Not only are they playful, intelligent, and friendly, but monkeys are also some of the cutest animals around!

Also on Thu Dec 14, 2023...

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