Celebrated on the day of the June solstice, World Humanist Day is a coming together of organisations and individuals which value science and rationalism over divinity and the supernatural.
Created during the 1980s by people affiliated to American Humanist Association, the day is regarded as the only holiday for free thought in the world. In recent years, it has grown rapidly and even received television coverage in some nations.
The way in which it is celebrated differs greatly from country to country, with some groups hosting parties and others favouring conferences and activism.
The main point of World Humanist Day is to try and make the world a better place by increasing the public’s knowledge of scientific methods in hope that it will dispel many age-old myths.
Well known supporters of World Humanist Day include the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, best-selling author Phillip Pullman, the philosopher AC Grayling and the comedian Tim Minchin.
World Humanist Day is celebrated every year on June 21. It is an opportunity for humanists and humanist organizations to publicize the positive values of Humanism and to share the global concerns of the Humanist movement, and we’ve been celebrating the day since the 1980s.
Humanist groups around the world mark World Humanist Day with a wide variety of activities ranging from activism to parties. World Humanist Day may be recognized with official proclamations or promotional campaigns to educate people about the growth of the secular community and the ethical values of humanists.
Groups may run courses or conferences to deepen understanding of the principles of Humanism and programmes run by humanist organizations. They may emphasize their global solidarity by raising awareness and money for a freethought group working in a different country. Or groups may simply throw a party or share a picnic to celebrate.
Origins of World Humanist Day
World Humanist Day originated in the 1980s, when several local state chapters of theAmerican Humanist Association (AHA) began celebrating. But at first different chapters had different ideas as to what the date should be.
Some chapters, for example, preferred the anniversary of the founding of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), while other chapters celebrated a Humanist Day on other dates of significance to Humanism. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, first the AHA and then IHEU passed resolutions declaring June 21 to be World Humanist Day. In both cases the day was declared under twin resolutions: the first to decide that there should be a World Humanist Day, the second to decide when that day should be.
Every year since then, World Humanist Day has been celebrated around the world on June 21. The grassroots origins and process of establishment mark the origins of World Humanist Day as highly democratic.
June 21 usually marks the date of the June solstice around the world (summer solstice in the northern hemisphere and winter solstice in the southern). The solstice event has echoes of ancient communal gatherings, as well as reflecting humanity’s deepening scientific understanding of our world, and being an event that, by its nature, is shared globally at the same moment in the calendar.
Ways to celebrate World Humanist Day
Below are some of the many ways that World Humanist Day has been celebrated over the past two decades, and a few of the resources already available to groups. If we missed your favourite World Humanist Day event, please let us know.
- Publicity drive. From billboards to library displays, World Humanist Day is a great hook for advertising and promoting Humanism. It’s also an opportunity to seek media coverage.
- Conference or courses. While some Humanist groups hold conferences around June 21, others, such as the Humanists of Florida, conduct introductory courses about Humanism.
- Lectures or discussions. Topics for discussion can range from the global, such as talks about the activities of the IHEU, to the individual, such as open forums where people share their personal pathways to Humanism.
- Proclamations. A public proclamation is a document, authorized and signed by an elected official, which declares the importance of a specific date or event. A proclamation recognizing World Humanist Day is a great way to raise visibility and appreciation for the Humanist community.
- Videos. In 2009, the Dutch humanist broadcasting service, HUMAN, and the broadcaster VPRO worked together with the Humanist NGO Hivos to create five short films in which Humanism, as a practical, life-affirming philosophy takes centre stage. The films were shown on Dutch national TV on Saturday June 20th and Sunday June 21st in celebration of World Humanist Day.
- Party or Picnic. Since World Humanism Day is a celebration, many groups maker it by throwing a party. And since June 21 is the summer solstice for the northern hemisphere, the party is often outdoors. A picnic can include food, games and discussion, and is also a great opportunity to include children in a Humanist meeting.
- Ceremony. Some groups have seized on the significance of the solstice to develop celebratory rituals, including music and readings that highlight the symbolism of the solstice and the light (knowledge) which brings us out of darkness (ignorance).