(frequently asked questions)

What is HumanLight?

In many societies, late December is a season of good cheer and a time for gatherings of friends and families. During this holiday season, many events and holidays are observed.

HumanLight illuminates a positive vision and message; a Humanist vision of a good future.  It’s a future in which all people can identify with each other, and try to behave with high moral standards.  We believe people can build this future by working together towards a happy, just and peaceful world, drawing upon the best of our human nature and capacities.

We wish to celebrate this vision, and the positive human achievements which help work towards that better future.  And we wish to share this vision with our children, families and friends.  We can do this by celebrating the HumanLight holiday together.

HumanLight is a festive, secular December holiday intended to celebrate and express the positive human values of reason, compassion, and hope for a better future.

HumanLight is a holiday to celebrate and express human ideals and values, and a positive, secular vision of a peaceful, just and happy world that humanity can work together to bring about.

The name HumanLight was chosen for its emphasis on humanity (as opposed to the supernatural) and the light of reason.  HumanLight connotes the proverbial “candle in the dark,” suggesting that the hope for our future rests on human accomplishments, guided by the unique human capacities for reason and compassion.

Find out more about Humanism from the American Humanist Assoc: https://americanhumanist.org/what-is-humanism/

Why Celebrate HumanLight?

Celebrating HumanLight can demonstrate a positive presence in the general community for secular, non-theist people. A public event to celebrate the holiday draws attention, often attracting news media as well. Through public holiday celebrations, we can reach out to people who may feel alone and isolated in our society (because they don’t accept the common religious views of life), and who may be unaware of humanist groups, events and publications.

It’s also very important for the general public to know that our society includes productive people who lead ethical and meaningful lives, but who don’t have supernatural religious beliefs. And for families with young children, we believe it’s very important for children to understand that their family is part of a broader, supportive community of people with shared values.

Celebrating HumanLight allows us to have fun enjoying music, art, food, and each other’s company.  It gives us an opportunity to convey in a positive way that, although we don’t believe in the supernatural, we do believe in the growth and betterment of all people through reason, science, compassion, joy, optimism and moral excellence. It is a message we present in kindness, when we come together in a positive and constructive atmosphere, not to engage in debate and not to criticize other people’s beliefs.

Who created HumanLight?

HumanLight was founded by members of the New Jersey Humanist Network. The idea of a new December holiday was first brought up for discussion in 1998 and the very first public celebration was held in Verona, New Jersey on December 23, 2001. The holiday has grown in popularity around the U.S. and the world ever since.

Shortly after the name HumanLight was selected, the symbol was designed by a volunteer graphic artist. The symbol depicts the light of the sun, and human figures celebrating with arms outstretched. The font characters composing HumanLight are of a festive, decorative nature.

This is a high-resolution vector file of the HumanLight symbol which you may download, for non-commercial, non-profit use only. To download, right-click on image, select “Open Image in a New Tab.” In the new tab, right-click the image and select “Save Image As”

When is HumanLight?

HumanLight day is December 23rd.

When December 23rd falls on a Saturday or Sunday, HumanLight is often celebrated either day of that weekend. When December 23rd falls on a weekday, HumanLight is often celebrated either day of the prior weekend.  (This applies mainly for public group celebrations where a weekday or weeknight event would be impractical for scheduling reasons). Of course, some prefer to celebrate on December 23rd, regardless of whether it’s a weekend or weekday.

The very first HumanLight celebration was held on December 23, 2001.  HumanLight day is December 23rd, and should be celebrated on or around this date. The date was chosen for several reasons:  The main idea was to place it within the peak celebration time of the December holiday season, yet to have a specific, distinct date that did not coincide (and did not interfere) with other events and holidays such as Solstice, Christmas, Hanukkah, Boxing Day, Kwanzaa, New Year’s Eve. December 23rd is close to the typical vacation periods that often lead to family and social gatherings.  Also, because of this, humanists at social gatherings and other holiday events can say “Happy Holidays” in a sense that now includes HumanLight as well.

Why not just celebrate the Solstice?

This is a question some people ask when hearing about HumanLight for the first time. HumanLight is a holiday to celebrate and express human ideals and values, and a positive, secular vision of a peaceful, just and happy world that humanity can bring about, without reliance on supernatural beings. It is not a Solstice celebration.

The Solstice, on the other hand, does not have any intrinsic human values or meaning.  It is a natural event caused by the way the Earth rotates, which does not involve or signify any humanist values.  In addition, the Solstice is an event celebrated by, and often associated with, ancient (or current) Pagan religious people. Thus, Humanists celebrating the Solstice run the risk of being confused with such Pagan god-worshipping people.

One of the reasons that December 23rd was chosen for HumanLight day was that it would not coincide with the Solstice. Thus, Humanists who wish to do so, can celebrate other events and holidays as well.  In fact, some freethought and humanist groups have had a long-standing tradition around celebrating the Solstice in some manner.  This was primarily done because in the past the Solstice had been seen as the only December holiday that was reasonably suitable for non-theistic people.  But with HumanLight, now there is an authentically meaningful humanity-based holiday.  Some groups and people have taken to combining their existing Solstice traditions with a new HumanLight celebration.

Is the HumanLight holiday run by or “owned by” a specific person or organization?

No it is not. HumanLight is open and available to be celebrated by anyone who appreciates its meaning and purpose.  The holiday was created by humanists in 2001, and since then has been available for all groups, families and individuals to celebrate.  Each group or individual creates and runs their own events or activities to celebrate the holiday in their own way, just like with any other holiday.  HumanLight is a December holiday that is festive, positive, humanity-based and entirely secular.  It’s designed to address the needs, interests and values of all kinds of secular, non-theistic, or humanist-oriented people all over the world.

Since HumanLight is relatively new and still unfamiliar to most people, it does require some public education about its meaning and purpose.  The HumanLight Network was begun in 2001 by the original founders/creators of the holiday, in order to promote awareness and information about it.  We’re a group of volunteers who operate the website http://www.humanlight.org and the “HumanLight” Facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/211184232752 ). These are globally available sources of accurate, reliable information, resources, suggestions and discussions.  In addition to these online resources, Network volunteers have engaged in many other forms of public outreach as well. (contact The HumanLight Network: humanlightinfo@gmail.com). We promote awareness and provide information to help people understand and celebrate the holiday.

Celebrating HumanLight has been supported in various ways by the American Humanist Association (AHA) since 2004. The AHA (https://americanhumanist.org/ ) also hosted and helped organize the first-ever national, online virtual HumanLight celebrations in 2020-22, and these events were co-sponsored by numerous other secular organizations. (click here for videos of these events https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkjkTmwhPg65whbJr_znZaQ/featured ).  We encourage all national and local secular groups to also support and sponsor HumanLight holiday celebrations, both in-person and online!

All people and groups who appreciate the holiday’s meaning and purpose, regardless of their organizational affiliations, are encouraged to celebrate HumanLight!

(Note: The HumanLight symbol is copyrighted to protect it from potential abuse, but it is freely available for non-profit use only, when used to promote or celebrate the holiday).

Should there be holiday displays for HumanLight on public/government property?

The question has come up about whether or not local groups or individuals should try to put up a HumanLight holiday display on public property in December.  There has been controversy in many towns around the U.S. for decades, about holiday displays on public property for the traditional religious holidays.  The situation, as ruled by U.S. Courts, generally breaks down like this: If the government agency allows any holiday displays on public property, then they should allow all holidays to be represented— a non-discrimination policy.  Or, not allowing any holiday displays at all on public property is also legally acceptable. And this latter approach (no displays) is actually preferable in the opinion of many freethought / humanist organizations.

We think it’s best not to create unnecessary political controversy about HumanLight.  We recommend that HumanLight supporters should tread carefully in this area, and should keep in mind that HumanLight is still not a well known holiday.

First and foremost, we feel that people should focus their time and energy on having a wonderful group celebration event (or private celebrations at home), and not worry too much about holiday displays on public property.  We think it would be regrettable if the initial introduction of this new holiday into your community was focused around a lawsuit or other political controversy. That would be an unfortunate and negative way of making the larger community aware of the holiday, and it is likely to create ill will, which is contrary to the meaning and purpose of HumanLight.  It would be much better to hold a great holiday celebration event and generate some positive responses to that!

Therefore, we suggest the following:

If your local government and community are welcoming and tolerant about accepting a HumanLight display on public property, and if they already have other holiday displays, and if it would Not cause serious political controversy, then go ahead with a holiday display.  In that kind of situation, it would be seen as a positive, beneficial contribution to community diversity and tolerance.  That would help spread public awareness of HumanLight in a positive atmosphere.

If you do decide to have a HumanLight holiday display on public property, this is usually done with some kind of sign or poster.  In keeping with the holiday’s purpose and meaning, we strongly urge that only positive messages be used, that are NOT critical towards religion or other holidays.  Examples of appropriate sign messages: “Happy HumanLight!”, -or- “Celebrate HumanLight with Reason, Compassion, Hope”.  Signs/displays would also usually include the HumanLight symbol (or some version of it). This is a good example: