Another calendar year is ending, which can mean only one thing. It's time once again for the event that brings joy to all (with a slight helping of dismay for our friends in the southern hemisphere1): Winter Bash!
Starting now and going until the end of the day on Jan. 3, 2016, you'll once again be able to earn and show off hats for all sorts of things you're already doing across the Stack Exchange network. As in previous years, we're rolling out an all-new array of hats for this year's event. (For those who are wondering, this is entirely because we on the SE team love our communities and think you deserve the best, and not at all because we forget where we store the old hats every year.) That means we owe another big thank you to amazing freelance designer Elias Stein, who deftly handled the conversion of all hats from crazy vague concepts into beautiful digital reality for the third year in a row, and our very own unicorn lord balpha, who once again worked tirelessly behind the scenes to perfect the hat distribution process. Hats, for those who don't know, are sort of like badges, but better, because you can "wear" hats on your avatar, displaying them wherever your avatar appears, network-wide! (And thanks to a labor of love by Brian Nickel, that includes the iOS app this year!) The triggers for hats are a little different than the triggers for badges; to find out what you have to do to get some headpieces, check out the Winter Bash mini-site. There are 28 total hats you can earn over the next few weeks… that we're telling you about. How many secret hats are there this year, you ask? You're on your own. We're not spilling the beanies. After you've earned some hats, you can visit your profile on any site to choose the hat you want to wear (or simply admire your own personal hat rack). Just click on the bobble hat adorning your badges section to bring up a dialog.
(No, you can't wear the bobble hat yourself. Your badges would get cold!)
Once you've picked a hat, you can resize and reposition it in the selection window to suit your avatar. Last year's example image for this was so perfect that it just has to be reused:
Finally, you don't need to worry about tracking all this stuff yourself. You'll get notifications about new hats via a special, Winter-Bash-only top bar inbox:
. Of course, if you think all this is weird and don't want any part of it, that's okay, we won't judge you (much). You can opt out of the event by clicking on the snowflake icon in the top bar—
—and then the "I hate hats" link at the bottom left of the box that pops up. (NB: the reverse is true on Stack Overflow; fans of hats on SO will have to go through the same procedure but click a link to opt in at the end.) You're welcome to change your mind about wanting hats at any time during the event. Just remember, all the hats will vanish again after three weeks. Now go! Other people out there are already working on their degrees2!
1: As in the past, tradition defeated accuracy in the naming decision. Hopefully some of our summertime audience will be at least partially mollified by the fact that the Winter Bash site will be available in Portuguese, Spanish, Japanese and Russian this year, thanks to the efforts of our international Community Managers. 2: The University of Winter Bash has not been accredited by any organization recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation or the United States Department of Education. Yet.