You might not have grown up celebrating World Emoji Day, but pencil July 17 into your calendar, because this weird, wacky holiday is here to stay! Today, we’re sharing the surprising and little-known history behind those hilarious little faces and symbols, plus providing some next level tips for celebrating in style.

Ready to get started? Let’s dive in!

Another Language Or Just For Fun?

laptop with emojis

You might think emojis are the sort of modern-day equivalent to Egyptian hieroglyphics, and there’s no doubt that they help us communicate across sub-cultures and even internationally.

As popular as they are in the West, however, emojis originated in Japan in 1999, when they were first installed on mobile phones in that country. As it turns out, Japanese have led (and continue to lead) the way in using these tiny symbols to convey a deeper meaning.

In fact, the word emoji is an amalgamation of the Japanese words for picture and character. While they are sometimes called emoticons in English and closely resembled the English word emotion, these are (happy) coincidences.  

Wildly Popular

Wherever they originated, the emojis we celebrate for World Emoji Day are wildly popular, and not just in the United States. The Oxford Dictionary named an emoji as the Word of the Year in 2015. The emoji honored? The Face with Tears of Joy emoji, which is one of the most popular characters worldwide.

Other popular emojis across the world include Person Facepalming and Person Shrugging, but we can also break down the most popular emojis by country. Can you guess which countries’ most used emoji was the sad face? The award goes to the United States, UK, and Canada!

South America, it seems, favors open hands (often called jazz hands or praise hands in the United States), while Saudi Arabia gravitates towards the blue heart. Mexico relies heavily on the praying hands (some think these hands are giving a high five), South Korea likes the kissing lips, and Colombia, Brazil, and Argentina love the musical notes.

Things Are Getting Exciting!

World Emoji Day has existed for several years, but 2017 saw one of the most dramatic of celebrations for the fledgling holiday. Everyone from Google (who announced the end of the blobs) to Apple (who released new emoji plans), and the Empire State Building (it went yellow for the day) got into the action.

One of the reasons things were so exciting is that World Emoji Day coincided with the release of The Emoji Movie from Sony Pictures. The movie’s PR team was able to assemble over five hundred fans across the world in places like London, Moscow, Dubai, Dublin, and Sao Paulo to win the Guinness World Record for the largest gathering of people dressed as emoji faces.

The movie, an animated story about emojis living inside a phone, grossed over $200 million worldwide, giving us a picture of how popular emojis have become.  

We’re not anticipating another emoji movie in 2018, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still celebrate in style. Keep reading for more amazing ideas!

How To Celebrate

woman holding emoji balloons

It might sound a little--er--obvious, but the best way to celebrate World Emoji Day is with an emoji. Or, preferably, lots of emojis.

Emoji Challenge

A fun way to celebrate World Emoji Day is by challenging friends or family members to communicate exclusively in emojis.

The trick is to see how creative you can get! Some Twitter accounts or brands will hold contests closer to the big day (make sure you follow along with #worldemojiday on Twitter) where contests vie for the most creative or easy to understand the translation of a sentence, phrase, or song in emoticons.

Write A Book Entirely In Emojis

This one might take you a lot longer than a day, however! Emoji Dick was the first full-length novel ever “translated” into emojis. It was done by using a combination of an Amazon Mechanical Turk worker and eight hundred people voting on possible emoji combinations for each sentence.

The result? A seven-hundred-page book written entirely in emojis! Appropriately enough, the project was funded via a Kickstarter campaign, and today, copies of the book go for more than $200.

While you might not have the time on your hands to translate a classic, it might be fun to gather friends and family and work to create something shorter--maybe a poem or a short story!

Set A New Record

What if you were to top Sony Pictures’ world record with your massive gathering of people in emoji costumes? This might take a tad bit of coordination, but the results would be impressive!

Even if you’re not going for a new world record, a local record would also be fun. You can try coordinating with local businesses to drum up support and participation as a fun way to bring people together. Try connecting with a local school, a party supply store, or a costume shop.

Party It Up

A good ol’ fashioned party is a great way to celebrate World Emoji Day, as well. You can find emoji decorations online on Amazon or Etsy (or make your own).

Here are some fun games to play:

  • Emoji charades
  • Pin the poop emoji on the toilet
  • Pin the face on the emoji
  • Pass the poop (emoji; like hot potato!)

Try these fun and hilarious snacks:

  • Use brown icing to top cupcakes with a “poop emoji”!
  • Make mini pizzas and use pepperoni and pepper slices to make emoji faces
  • Use permanent markers to sketch emoji faces on mini snack cheese wheels
  • Make a vegetable tray in the shape of your favorite emoji (may we suggest using red tomatoes to make heart eyes?)

Your guests will love these party activities:

  • Whip up easy costumes by gluing popsicle sticks to bright yellow plates (cut out different emoji features and glue to plates to resemble your favorite emojis)
  • Make “don’t be a party pooper” invitations featuring the poop emoji
  • Have a special viewing of the Emoji Movie
  • Have a costume party; ask guests to come dressed up as their favorite emoji and give out prizes to the winner
  • Make an emoji necklace (roll out yellow modeling clay till it’s about a centimeter thick. Cut out circles using a craft knife or cookie cutter and poke two holes at the top with toothpicks. Bake the clay discs according to package directions and remove from oven. When cooled, use red and black Sharpies to draw emoji faces. Thread string or plastic laces through the holes on the face, and add decorative beads if desired, making sure to tie necklace, so the beads don’t slide off!)
  • Decorate your own emoji cookies or cupcakes (have yellow, red, and black icing available for each guest to make their own)
  • Paint your own emoji (have canvases and paint)

Favors and costumes can include everything from emoji socks to emoji necklaces to emoji shirts. The sky’s the limit!

Brush Up On Your Emoji History

neon emojis

You might not have thought of emojis as having a history worth studying, but communications experts tell us emojis cause untold amounts of misunderstandings. The Grinning Squinting Face, for example, looks different across phone and computer platforms and can signify gentle laughing or even a sneer.

If you’re trying to communicate sensitive information, it’s vital to understand the subtle ways emojis can underline or take away from your message! Emojipedia is a site created by Jeremy Burge that tracks the meaning of emojis. Think of it as an emoji dictionary of sorts!

Woman Tipping Hand is one commonly misunderstood emoji. Most people don’t know what it means, though lately it’s been given a cheeky or sassy meaning and people have started calling it the Hair Flip. Its true meaning is “can I help you?” as it’s meant to simulate a help desk employee offering help.

See No Evil

There are three monkey emojis that have also grown in popularity. One covers its face, one covers its ears, and one covers its mouth. If you’ve suspected these monkeys reference the ancient Japanese proverb “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil,” you’d be right!

In Western culture, we often use the See-No-Evil monkey in a joking manner, but its original purpose was a nod to the principle of a good mind.  

If you’ve ever been sent the nail polish emoji, there’s a good chance you might have been confused about it. While it is, indeed, simply meant to show a woman painting her nails, it has been wildly co-opted to indicate sass, glamour, and attitude (similar to the Woman Tipping Hand).

Finally, the two women with bunny ears is also used a lot to show friendship or togetherness. It’s used when making plans with friends, but its original meaning is a tad different! In Japan, a woman with bunny ears indicates sensuality. Not quite the meaning you might have been going for!

What Are You Waiting For?

smiling emoji

At its heart, World Emoji Day is a celebration of technology’s ability to connect us all, but you don’t have to wait till July 17 to send a heat emoji to your favorite people.