In Western societies, late December is a season of good cheer and a time for gatherings of friends and families. During the winter holiday season, where the word “holiday” has taken on a more secular meaning, many events are observed. This tradition of celebrations, however, is grounded in supernatural religious beliefs that many people in modern society cannot accept.
HumanLight presents an alternative reason to celebrate: a Humanist’s vision of a good future. It is a future in which all people can identify with one another, care for each other, behave with the highest moral standards, and work together toward a happy, just and peaceful world.
It is a vision that we not only wish to celebrate, but which we also wish to communicate to our children, families and friends. We want the people important to us to understand the ideals that we hold most dear to our hearts and, in so doing, to have a fuller understanding of who we are as people.
Similarly, the celebration of HumanLight promises to give humanism a larger presence in the public view. A public event to celebrate the holiday draws attention, often attracting news reporters as well. Through the publicity that a holiday celebration in the community generates, we can reach people who, because they cannot accept supernatural explanations or religious guidelines for living, feel alone and isolated in our society, unaware of the humanist organizations, events and publications that are available to them.
It is also important to us that people who are not Humanists know that we exist, that their society includes honest, generous, productive people who do not believe in gods or religions.
HumanLight encourages us to have fun enjoying music, art, food, and each other’s company. It also gives us an opportunity to convey that although we don’t believe in the supernatural, we do believe in the growth and betterment of all people through reason, science, empathy, joy, optimism and moral excellence. It is a message we present in kindness, at a moment when we come together not to engage in debate but to make both emotional and intellectual contact in a positive and constructive atmosphere.
HumanLight is December 23rd.
When December 23rd falls on a Saturday or Sunday, HumanLight is celebrated either day of that weekend; when December 23rd falls on a weekday, HumanLight is celebrated either day of the prior weekend.
The very first HumanLight celebration was held in New Jersey on December 23, 2001 at a gala event attended by close to 100 people. It has grown in popularity around the country every year since. HumanLight is December 23rd, and should always be celebrated on or around this date. This date was chosen for several reasons. A critical objective was to be part of the peak celebration time of the holiday season, yet to have a distinct date that did not coincide exactly (and thus interfere) with other holidays such as the Winter Solstice, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, etc. December 23rd was close to the shortest day of the year, a natural event of note, as well as very close to vacation days that typically lead to family gatherings. Also, because of this, Humanists at family gatherings and other holiday social events are able to say “Happy Holidays” and mean it; to have a positive, constructive way to start a conversation in which to explain to loved ones what Humanism is about.
This is a question often asked by Humanists hearing about HumanLight for the first time. HumanLight was conceived as an expression of specifically humanist ideals and sentiments: the positive vision of a peaceful, ethical, enlightened and happy world that we, as humans, can bring about without reliance on concepts of supernatural entities.
HumanLight is an avenue through which we can wish others well during this season without denying, ignoring, or confusing our identities as Humanists.
The Winter Solstice, on the other hand, does not intrinsically carry any of these meanings. It is a natural event that can be appreciated without any notion of humanism. Those who are not Humanists can and do recognize its occurance. In particular, the Winter Solstice is an event celebrated by and associated in many minds with ancient religious traditions. Thus, Humanists celebrating the event run the risk of being confused with and categorized alongside of god-worshipping people.
We can try to explain the distinctions, if we are lucky enough to be given the opportunity, but there is no need for such an effort when we celebrate HumanLight.
One of the reasons that December 23rd was chosen for HumanLight was that it would not coincide with the Winter Solstice or other major holidays. Thus, Humanists who wish to do so can celebrate other occasions.