A few of the American Humanist Association’s incarcerated humanist members have recently called and written me asking about humanist holidays. One needed to include “observances” on a form required to start a humanist group at his facility. One was looking for more event opportunities for his established group, which was one of the first AHA prison chapters. I told them that the only official humanist holidays are World Humanist Day on June 21 and HumanLight on or around December 23. However, humanists celebrate many other days and—though I couldn’t provide a definitive list—I offered some examples.
When we celebrate the importance of church-state separation and democracy. This can include various influential people’s birthdays and legal case anniversaries.
National Religious Freedom Day (January 16)
Ask an Atheist Day (3rd Thursday of April & September)
National Day of Reason (1st Thursday of May, alternate to National Day of Prayer)
Independence Day (July 4)
Constitution Day (September 17)
Freethought Day (October 12)
Separation of Church & State Week (week of Thanksgiving week, alternative to Bible Week)
International Human Rights Day (December 10)
When we celebrate the advancement of science and reason. This can include scientists’ birthdays and anniversaries of discoveries and publications.
International Day of Women & Girls in Science (February 11)
Darwin Day (February 12)
Science Education Day (March 14)
World Health Day (April 7)
World Science Day for Peace & Development (November 10)
Evolution Day (November 24)
Social Justice Days
When we celebrate putting our values into action and the progress made or needed on important human rights issues. This can include activists’ birthdays and awareness months like Black History Month, Women’s History Month, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Pride Month, Latinx Heritage Month, etc.
World Water Day (March 22)
Equal Pay Day (April 2, average woman, there are also separate days for different races)
Earth Day (April 22)
Juneteenth (June 19)
World Contraception Day (September 26)
Indigenous Peoples’ Day (2nd Monday of October)
National LGBTQ Coming Out Day (October 11)
World Food Day (October 16)
International Pronouns Day (3rd Wednesday of October)
International Day of Persons with Disabilities (December 3)
While it would be great to get school or work off—or even alternate side of the street parking suspended—for every humanist holiday, that is highly unlikely. But that doesn’t mean our celebrations are any less valuable or meaningful. They bring us together in person, online, and in action to honor what we care about.
And not every celebration needs to be an annual, national holiday. There’s no limit to the reasons we can celebrate. In her new book We of Little Faith: Why I Stopped Pretending to Believe (and Maybe You Should Too)—and at her December 2023 AHA event—Kate Cohen shared how her community created a holiday around making and enjoying pizza together. As Anne Klaeysen shared in her “A Year of Humanist Celebrations” (a December talk which introduced the new Humanist Family Life Ceremonies online course she co-wrote with Audrey Kindred), we can incorporate humanism in all kinds of celebrations from once-in-a-lifetime ceremonies and annual parties to more regular acknowledgement and reflection. Some humanist congregations include a milestones moment in their weekly programming so attendees can share what’s going on in their lives. It could be small, like kids wanting to share they lost a tooth or got a pet. It could be big, like announcing a career shift or completing chemotherapy. We can celebrate many milestone accomplishments to acknowledge our educational, professional, financial, and emotional progress, and support one another.
As we close one year and begin a new one, let’s appreciate ourselves and each other for all that we do. Reflect on what we learned from this past year. Get excited about what we want to learn this next year. And let’s make the most of the time we have together.
As we close one year and begin a new one, let’s appreciate ourselves and each other for all that we do.
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