Here in DC, late December comes with darkening and colder evenings which we compensate for with events that promote cheerfulness. As in other Western countries there’s a post harvest tradition of settling in by a fire with some time for food-centric gatherings of friends and families. Fred Edwords has a nice summary on the origins of celebrating holiday events in a Keynote address given at Bridgewater, NJ, 12/18/05.
Religious cultures have colonized these winter days in a variety of ways. The result is a “traditional holiday season” aha Christmas. It’s veined through with old and new supernatural religious spirit and beliefs and now peppered with shopping fever. For many people in modern society aren’t comfortable with late December as a Christian religious holiday. To be sure there are people of different faiths who also have their holidays and want to occupy late December with their cultural message and style of celebrating. More recently that interesting secular minority of Americans without religious faith have elbowed themselves into the December holiday window. In 2001 a new Humanist way to observe the winter season was inaugurated in New Jersey by members of the New Jersey Humanist Network. It's call HumanLight.
On Dec 23rd (between the Winter Solstice and Christmas) an increasing number of secularists celebrate HumanLight. It’s an event that the HumanLight organization promotes to “illuminate Humanism's positive secular vision” and as the AHA said in a 2009 announcement – “affirm the positive values of humanism during the time period of the “traditional” winter holidays.”
Gary Brill, who co-founded the holiday, says that HumanLight events or parties are usually family occasions. Here is DC we are lucky to have a community holiday party event due to the Kalmanson’s (Jenny and Phil) WASH members of Laurel MD. In past years dozens of guests have gathered in his home to celebrate a secular holiday. You can see details on the WASH community event page. But now there are more events in the area.
The Baltimore Coalition of Reason also has a cerebration at 7:00 pm, Friday, December 23, 2011 at the First Unitarian Church of Baltimore, 12 W. Franklin St. (Corner of Charles and Franklin) (Directions at http://firstunitarian.net )
The Baltimore Coalition of Reason also has a cerebration at 7:00 pm, Friday, December 23, 2011 at the First Unitarian Church of Baltimore, 12 W. Franklin St. (Corner of Charles and Franklin) (Directions at http://firstunitarian.net)
The Alexandria HumanLight and Solstice Celebration is Tuesday, December 20, 2011, 6:00 PM at Hard Times Cafe 1404 King St, Alexandria, VA This is a "low-key celebration with plans to deliver about 5 minutes of presentation to contemplate what science tells about about our place in the universe (Solstice) and to celebrate the awesome responsibility and inspiration we gain by making our universe a better place."
Last year there were 27 places around the world that had community events and if the DC-Baltimore area is any indication the # is growing. It’s just a small, fun step towards a new tradition and something to make the December a little bit fuller time for non-believers.
See http://www.voanews.com/english/news/usa/Some-American-Atheists-Celebrate-Their-Own-Holiday-112438494.html for an interview with the Kalmansons.