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 other, 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 what we not only want 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. It is an event that draws attention, often attracting media reporters as well. Through the publicity that HumanLight generates, we can reach people who, because they cannot accept supernatural explanations or religious guidelines for living, feel alone and isolated in our society, but who are not aware 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 gives us an opportunity to explain that although we don't believe in the supernatural, we do believe in the growth and betterment of all people through reason, science, empathy, 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, and is celebrated on or near that date every year. The first HumanLight gathering took place in the New York area on December 23rd, 2001. In 2002, HumanLight celebrations were held in Little Falls, New Jersey; Long Island, New York; Los Angeles, California; Oakland, California; Daytona, Florida; and Green Bay, Wisconsin. The enthusiasm generated thus far promises to bring HumanLight celebrations to many more locations in the United States and around the world in the coming years.
What happens at a HumanLight celebration?
Humanists tend to shy away from both rigid thinking and rigid rituals. Thus, the specific events and activities involved in any HumanLight celebration are open to invention and creativity. However, not everyone likes to start from scratch, and the easiest approach to developing an event is to borrow from what others have done. Also, keep in mind, that although it is wonderful to be able to gather with a larger community, HumanLight can also be celebrated at home, either by yourself or with a small gathering of family and friends. There are ideas, materials, and even original HumanLight songs from previous celebrations available to be shared. The HumanLight web site www.HumanLight.org contains descriptions of activities that have taken place in previous years, including copies of newspaper articles covering the events.
So, for example, you could include any or all of the following things at a HumanLight celebration:
- A meal.
- The lighting of a candle.
- Short readings (e.g., excerpts from the writings of Robert Ingersoll).
- Educational entertainment for children. One HumanLight celebration included a professional science demonstration for kids.
- Short talks or discussions.
- Comedy skits and other forms of levity (e.g., HumanLight "MadLibs").
- Music and song. Original HumanLight songs have been written by Sonny Meadows and Sara Brown, and are available on request (see contact information at www.HumanLight.org).
- Dancing: ballroom and/or contemporary.
- Video excerpts from programs such as "Evolution," "Cosmos," "Contact," or other films and television programs.
There are also cards, banners, balloons and other items with the HumanLight logo that are available. Some of these can be obtained at www.HumanLight.org.
However you choose mark the occasion, it is extremely important that you remember that HumanLight is meant to be an event that focuses on the positive aspects of humanity, reason and hope. Criticism of the faith community is inconsistent with the intended message of HumanLight. In fact, participants in earlier HumanLight celebrations have greatly appreciated the positive and uplifting atmosphere, and have indicated that it has been a key ingredient in making the event as rewarding and successful as it has been.
In addition to Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, secular humanists have added a new celebration to the crowded calendar. HumanLight, observed on or about Dec. 23, is a secular celebration of human potential that is growing in acceptance. ...