Its origins

In the 1980s several chapters of the American Humanist Association decided to celebrate the Summer Solstice, i.e. 21 June, as Humanist Day. The Summer Solstice was chosen because it was the day with the longest hours of sunlight; the metaphoric symbolism of the solstice and the light (knowledge) which brings us out of darkness (ignorance).

Since those early beginnings initiated by the AHA the idea has spread. So Humanist Day, once it was endorsed by IHEU has morphed into World Humanist Day, is celebrated on 21 June by many Humanist groups around the world.

Typically celebrations have taken a number of different forms, such as:

  • Publicity drives such as billboards or library board displays;
  • Lectures or discussions on issues of importance to Humanists, like human rights, the value of education and freedom of expression;
  • Conferences and courses often aimed at providing an overview of humanist ideas;
  • Videos of humanist activities, Humanist civil ceremonies and counselling services;
  • Parties and picnics as opportunities for family and friends of Humanists to enjoy socialising together;
  • Ceremonies that focus on associating lights of the solstice with knowledge.

The idea of celebrating the ‘light of knowledge’ on the day with the longest hours of sunlight in the northern hemisphere doesn’t have much appeal for us in the southern hemisphere. This probably explains why Australian Humanists have been a bit slow to make much of potential chance to celebrate Humanism.

This year (2016) we will acknowledge World Humanist Day with a Mid-Winter Solstice Social on Sunday 19 June.

Rosslyn Ives

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