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Occurring at the cusp of winter, National Absurdity Day, November 20, is a fantastic way to liven up a dreary day. What started as a philosophical movement called absurdism has bloomed into this marked calendar event, during which anyone is allowed to follow their most preposterous whims. It’s a time to exchange social customs and dull norms for playful and untethered behaviors, expressions, and ideas. Dye your eyebrows pink, juggle eggs in the city park or lead a meeting while standing on your hands. There’s no limit to the wackiness of this holiday!
History of National Absurdity Day
The real philosophy of absurdism began in the 19th century in the mind of a Danish philosopher called Kierkegaard. Its premise is that humans are all searching to find meaning in a meaningless universe. As the years passed, this philosophy gained popularity and became the touchstone for a movement in theatre and literature in Europe and North America.
In the 1950s and 1960s, the peak of such artistic movements as the Theater of the Absurd and Surrealism gave rise to an entire genre of literature based on nonsequitur behaviors and otherworldly plots. One of the works from this time, “Waiting for Godot”, is based entirely around a pair of characters waiting at a tree for their friend, Godot — whom we never meet — to arrive.
The origins of National Absurdity Day are apropos to the subject at hand. They’re entirely unknown. We like to think of this day as an opportunity to embrace a new and freeing philosophy in all our words and deeds, just to see what it’s like to unsubscribe from the order and organization of normal human life for a few hours.
Absurdism can be difficult to define since it is by its very nature anti-establishment and anti-order. Embracing absurdity simply requires us to move directly past all the tacit rules that we tend to accommodate each day, from the way we dress to the way we speak, to how we sit in a public place.
Today, the primary location for National Absurdity Day celebrations is an elementary school. This is one of the only places where people can truly embrace the meaning of the day without paying significant consequences—it’s not so easy for adults in the working world.
National Absurdity Day timeline
Primary and secondary schools begin to use the celebration of National Absurdity Day as a chance to let their young students get the wiggles out and enjoy the playfulness of the movement.
Samuel Beckett's play, “Waiting for Gadot,” brings absurdity into the theater.
Albert Camus publishes his take on absurdism in “The Myth of Sisyphus.”
Kierkegaard publishes his work “Philosophical Fragments.”
National Absurdity Day FAQs
Is it safe to practice absurd behaviors?
A good rule of thumb on National Absurdity Day is to keep your celebrations limited to your own life, home, and physical person. Unless someone else has agreed to celebrate with you (like, let’s say, in a food fight), make sure that your absurdity doesn’t affect anyone else’s day, and you’ll be perfectly in the clear.
What is blase’ day?
Blase’ Day is observed annually on November 25. This unique observance permits us to be blase’ toward just about anything. Of French origin meaning to be indifferent or bored with life, unimpressed, as or as if from an excess of worldly pleasures.
Where can I learn more about the philosophy behind absurdism?
If you’re interested in learning where these ideas originated, visit your local library’s philosophy department. While Kierkegaard can be a pretty dense read, you can always read summaries or thumb through Camus’ Myth of Sisyphus. It’s all very interesting stuff!
How to Celebrate National Absurdity Day
Sacrifice one of your five senses for the day.
One way to change your perspective about the usual drudgery of your routines is to choose one of your five senses and do without it for a day. Whether you plug your nose, close your eyes, or wear some good noise-cancelling headphones, you’ll be sure to enjoy the hilarity of the accidental antics that ensue.
Have a food fight.
The rule that food shall not be played with was established for most of us long ago in childhood. To celebrate nonsense, plan a food fight with your friends and family. Get all the good stuff, from Jell-O to ketchup. Enjoy getting messy and guiltlessly playing with your food.
Let your pet or toddler call the shots.
Instead of insisting that adult logic and plans rule the day, hand over the decision-making responsibilities to your pet or toddler. For the entire day, follow their lead. Does your dog want to dig a hole in the yard? Dig with him! Does your toddler want to unroll all the toilet paper in the house? Make snow angels in the loose tissue!
5 Absurd U.S. Laws That’ll Tickle You Pink
In Arizona, it is illegal for a donkey to sleep in a bathtub.
For the sake of a Hoagie
Arkansas has forbidden its citizens to honk their vehicle horns near a sandwich shop past the hour of 9 PM.
In Connecticut, pickles must be able to bounce when thrown on the floor. If they cannot, they’re unsafe for consumption.
Sending a surprise pizza to someone in Louisiana is considered a crime of harassment.
Bingo is taken seriously in North Carolina. It is unlawful to serve or consume alcohol in a room where a bingo game is being played in this state.
Why We Love National Absurdity Day
It helps us peek into an alternate universe
While we understand the importance of civilized behavior and enforced social norms, National Absurdity Day offers us an opportunity to live in an alternate reality for a day. In this reality, cats can get pedicures, spaghetti can function as wall decor, and bathing in chocolate pudding might just be a real possibility.
Silliness helps bring people together
It’s fitting that this holiday falls on the week before thanksgiving, because we can all get so stressed around the holidays. By participating in silly and absurd behavior, we can all abandon those somber expectations and meal planning obligations and just embrace the carefree attitudes of childhood once again. Laughing in good company is always the best medicine.
Independent thinking is encouraged
National Absurdity Day frees us all from following any routine or keeping ourselves in autopilot. We can begin to question why we do things in our lives that aren’t funny, entertaining, or true to our authentic desires. Maybe we can carry some of the lessons from this holiday along with us into the days thereafter.
National Absurdity Day dates