For some reason, when I first became an atheist, I began distancing myself from rites of passage, celebrations of life or anything that resembled religious ritual. Early on, my atheism took the form of rebelling against the dominant Christian norms that prevail here in the U.S. It was my way of living into my new label of choice. My phase of ‘opting out’ did not last long however, as I began to see the very real necessity of celebration.
What is life without the joyous acknowledgement of this world and all the amazing things that come with it? How do we define ourselves if not within community? Or gathering to observe milestones of significance or even insignificance? There are so many ways to celebrate in our lifetime and those festivities can take whatever form we like. Not bound to traditions, we atheists can take some pleasure out of making things up.
As a starting point for this blog, I sought out to find a secular calendar of so-called ‘holydays.’ A few dates commonly popped up in my search:
- Thomas Paine Day (January 21)
- Darwin Day (February 12)
- Openly Secular Day (April 23)
- National Day of Reason (First Thursday in May)
- World Humanist Day (June 21)
Grounded in science, freethought, and reason, the above list is a great start. However, some secular communities take it a step further, by engaging in larger scale gatherings beyond their group, but which nonetheless express their values. Issues of social justice and equality were central to my own identity formation as a humanist and atheist. To take part in the celebrations listed below, helps to reinforce my values and worldview. It also feels pretty great to connect with others around important issues. Typically, I find myself amongst like-minded communities who ultimately become a great resource in the future.
- Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Third Monday in January)
- International Women’s Day (March 8)
- Cesar Chavez Day (March 31)
- Earth Day (April 22)
- LGBTQI Pride Month (June)
- Interdependence Day (July 4)
- International Day of Peace (September 21)
But now, let us take it one step further. I would love to see the secular community commit to action that revolves around the issues at the heart of these celebrations. Whether you like to lobby, march, educate, protest, volunteer in service, or somehow otherwise engage the issues at hand, let us do it proudly and as a reflection of our secular values.
Rather than enjoying a day off on MLK Day, partake in a service opportunity with your neighborhood, aimed at beautifying your city. On International Women’s Day, support efforts to educate others on the need for women’s equal rights, or ways to combat the horrors that still face women and girls worldwide. During Pride month, show your support by attending and cheering at local parades. Alternatively, you could donate to organizations engaged on the issues of importance to you. While doing all these things, take a moment to appreciate the experience, and know that all these festivities are in celebration of human progress and achievements.
Lastly, I want to end by sharing a few days of observances that I enjoy, that you may also want to add to your calendar.