For the last 13 years, January 12th has marked International Kiss a Ginger Day - but how do redheads feel about the day in 2022?

Since it began, the day has been marked with celebrations and adorable social media posts, with reference to the day even making its way into the House of Commons thanks to a light-hearted remark from Labour MP Chris Bryant.

And this morning deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner and talkRADIO’s Julia Hartley-Brewer joked about the event, with Rayner suggesting that blowing kisses might be the Covid-safe way to celebrate:

First started in 2009, the anti-bullying campaign aimed to create a positive event to empower redheads.

The day was founded by Derek Forgie as a way to fight back against the South Park-inspired “Kick a Ginger Day” that reportedly led to children being targeted in the playground. Ed Sheeran recently spoke out about the 2005 episode, saying the joke about ginger hair in the cartoon “f***ing ruined” his life.

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In 2019 the tenth anniversary of the event was marked with a large gathering of young and old in Dublin’s Phoenix Park. Speaking to PA during the celebration, Forgie said the event has had an “overwhelmingly positive” impact over the last decade.

He said: “It’s a push back against some of the bullying we have seen and some of the marginalisation we have seen, and I think some people really resonate with something that’s positive."

For 2021 and 2022 the day was rebranded to the Covid-appropriate and social distancing-savvy “Miss a Ginger Day” instead.

Over a decade after the event was launched, has society’s perceptions of redheads in society changed, and how do people feel about Kiss a Ginger Day today?

Surrey woman Sara Richardson told Indy100 that growing up, she felt like an outsider due to her red hair.

The 36-year-old project manager said that although adults tried to soothe her by telling her that “boys will love you for it” when she’s an adult, these assurances never sat right with her as it was an appearance-focused remark based on attraction.

Her feelings about her hair colour changed when she received a letter from Geri Halliwell after her father died when she was 13.

She said: “I have a letter from her when my dad died talking about my beautiful red hair and it coming from her, in that way - that’s what changed my way of thinking. It wasn’t any adult saying anything, it wasn’t necessarily the media saying it, it was somebody that I admired, that I knew was beautiful.

“That was a really key point in my life because not only had I lost my dad very suddenly, she lost her dad at a similar age, but I was about to go through puberty and thinking about boys.”

At the time her hair was short, but Halliwell’s kind-hearted gesture made her appreciate her locks and enter her teenage years with a new sense of positivity.

Sara said that by identifying a specific day, such as Kiss a Ginger Day, it can still make those with red hair seem like outliers outside the binary “blonde or brunette”.

The only way she’s marked the day was jokingly with a friend who also has red hair, but she’s never had a partner reference it.

She said: “I think if it was Kiss a Ginger Day at whatever bar, I probably wouldn’t go for that reason. I wouldn’t want to think that there are people there that were looking for people with my physical characteristics.”

Although the introduction of redheaded emojis in 2018 was praised by many, others, including Sara, have highlighted that the emoji sits on its own, separate from the other hair colours. There is also no redheaded option for other emojis, such as the bride or queen symbols.

Bella, 34, from Milton Keynes also told Indy100 that growing up with red hair was difficult.

The freelance event manager and blogger said: “In my youth, I was literally avoided by the boys at school for being ‘ginger.’ They were embarrassed. I was never chosen over my non-ginger, pretty friends.”

The perception of others changed as she aged, however.

“As an adult though, the auburn tones seem to intrigue more men,” she said. “I feel in adulthood it’s seen more sexually, from my experience anyway. I hear a lot of men speak about fiery redheads. Although I equally hear of bright ginger people being laughed about too.”

When it comes to Kiss a Ginger Day, Bella said: “To the name of the day though, I think it’s as much as anything else when you add a label to it - takes the piss a bit.”

Journalist Norma Costello made a similar observation in a 2015 Vice article.

She wrote: “A public ‘day’ provides a weird, socially approved infrastructure to reduce redheads to one-dimensional caricatures to be fetishised or slagged.”

In the piece, she also told of how she was harassed on the street in Dublin during Kiss a Ginger Day, and how she once had a guy, mid-embrace, tell her: “Ah but you’re not that ginger, not like a manky carrot top or anything”.

Although school was difficult for some, Matt Callanan said even as a child he saw his red hair as a strength.

Speaking to Indy100, the 46-year-old Cardiff man said: “I recognised in primary school I stood out. Wannabe bullies tried to make a thing of it - I used quick-witted humour and also introduced myself as ‘Matt Ginger’ or ‘Ginge’. They had no longer to go so just accepted it.

“I started to own my slight difference and used it to my advantage. I saw standing out as a superpower. I started creating ideas that stood out, which worked out really well in adult life. Who wants to blend in?”

Matt, a success coach, podcaster, and founder of the kindness project We Make Good Happen, regularly speaks to school children about the benefits of kindness, and is known for his own random acts of kindness too.

He said: “Kids respond really well to kindness and being kind to each other. They often come up with better ideas than adults.”

From speaking to his 6-year-old son, Matt said there is definitely better education around bullying in comparison to when he grew up. He said if bullying is flagged now, “teachers jump on it really quickly”.

He said: “Just like adults, kids can be cruel to others without realising the impact it has on others”, but talking about it and educating can help.

“We’re all role models so it’s trying to treat people fairly and with kindness, whether it’s online or in-person.”

So what’s Matt’s verdict on the Kiss a Ginger Day itself?

“My wife of 10 years, Andrea, says she’s very glad she kissed a ginger,” he quipped.

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