National Nothing Day

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National Nothing Day is a unique observance in the United States that is held on January 16th. Unlike most holidays that commemorate significant events, people, or public figures, National Nothing Day serves the exact opposite purpose. It was proposed in 1973 by columnist Harold Pullman Coffin as a day dedicated to no special recognition, celebration, or event. The concept of the day is to offer a reprieve from the daily stream of celebrations and provide an opportunity for relaxation and the contemplation of emptiness.

The day has been observed annually since it was first proposed, providing a moment for individuals to embrace the concept of doing nothing at all. It is not recognized as a public holiday in the sense that it warrants a day off work or government closure, but rather it’s a day that encourages inaction in a humorous and ironic way. It exemplifies a day of stillness in an otherwise bustling society filled with constant demands for attention and activity.

Key Takeaways

  • National Nothing Day is observed annually on January 16th to embrace doing nothing.
  • Introduced by Harold Pullman Coffin, the day highlights a pause in the daily flurry of celebrations.
  • While not a public holiday, National Nothing Day offers a unique form of observance by encouraging inactivity in the United States.

Significance and History

National Nothing Day, observed on January 16th, is a unique observance in the United States with origins dating back to the early 1970s. It stands apart as an “un-event,” explicitly designed for people to recognize a day of no celebrations or acknowledgments.

Origins of National Nothing Day

National Nothing Day was proposed by Harold Pullman Coffin, a columnist for the Associated Press, as a day set aside for Americans to refrain from doing or celebrating anything. It first came about in 1972 and has been observed annually on January 16th since 1973.

Harold Pullman Coffin and the Realist Society

Coffin, who suggested National Nothing Day, was affiliated with the Realist Society. They promoted the day as an opportunity for society to pause the cycle of celebrations and observances that commonly fill calendars. His idea gained attention and was accepted by the general public and various media outlets.

National Day Recognition and Congressional Notation

While National Nothing Day has not been recognized by Congress as an official public holiday, it has been listed in various calendar compilations of events. Over the years, January 16th has come to symbolize a day of respite from the constant need to commemorate and participate in the never-ending stream of national days.

Observation and Impact

National Nothing Day challenges the norm of daily celebrations and observances by promoting a day of inactivity. It spotlights the societal penchant for constant commemoration and offers a moment of silent reflection.

Philosophy and Observance

Philosophy: Rooted in a philosophical stance that counters the frenetic pace of modern society, National Nothing Day presents a day where individuals are encouraged to celebrate nothing, devoid of the typical events or festivities seen in mainstream culture. The day subverts the expectation of constant activity, suggesting that doing nothing can be a valid form of observance.

Observance: Each year on January 16th, individuals may choose to observe Nothing Day by engaging in no special activities or celebrations. The day’s conception in Capitola, California by the Realist Society seeks to underscore the value of stillness and the non-observance of events within a relentlessly eventful society. It’s acknowledged by Chase’s Calendar of Events but not recognized as a public holiday.

Nothing Day Versus Public Holidays

Public Holiday Contrast: National Nothing Day is often juxtaposed with official public holidays. Unlike days like Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which seeks to honor and remember a significant historical figure and falls close on the calendar, Nothing Day is devoid of ceremonies or legal recognitions like those seen in public holidays.

Chase’s Calendar: Despite its listing in reputable sources such as Chase’s Calendar of Events, National Nothing Day maintains its not a public holiday status, not requiring an act of Congress to be enacted. This positions it as a type of observance rather than a day with any governmental or commercial obligations.

Cultural and Societal Reflections

Societal Impact: The day serves as a societal mirror, eliciting thoughts on the nature of holidays and potentially provoking philosophical discussions about the meaning of action versus inaction.

Reflections across Borders: The concept of doing nothing, recognized by both the Realist Society of Canada and the National Nothing Foundation in Birmingham, Alabama, transcends geographical boundaries, thus marking Nothing Day as a day of not just national, but international contemplation. It fosters a space for individuals to reflect on their need or lack thereof for constant engagement and celebration.

Alternate Observance: In some instances, such as THABS Day, the focus is on a more hands-on approach to doing nothing, where the day can be spent relaxing or engaging in leisure without the pressure of accomplishment, marking a subtle shift in the celebration of inactivity.


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