National Nothing Day – January 16, 2020

Thu Jan 16

Ever been caught “doing nothing” and shamed into feeling lazier than the average person? Rest assured, that might not happen today, January 16, National Nothing Day. National Nothing Day has been “celebrated” since 1973. Since the trappings and pomp of the holiday literally add up to nothing, like its namesake, there’s not a lot to tell. A mind-teaser does occur to us, though — if you’re doing nothing, aren’t you doing something, with nothing as the thing you’re doing?

History of National Nothing Day

In 1972, journalist Harold Pullman Coffin proposed National Nothing Day as a “non-event” to be observed — by doing nothing — every January 16. The next year, National Nothing Day made “Chase’s Calendar of Events,” a publication that marks annual occasions in print since the 1950s. National Nothing Day is sponsored by Coffin’s own “National Nothing Foundation.” Unsurprisingly, there is nothing to be found about that organization. True to its title, it doesn’t even have a website.

Here’s a fact that may seem to denote the idea of “nothing.” Martin Luther King day falls on the third Monday of January, one out of every seven years. The event is concurrent with National Nothing Day, which would seem to expropriate the idea that there is nothing going on on National Nothing Day every year. Since MLK is celebrated for his nonviolent activism during the Civil Rights Movement, many might refute the idea of nothingness during this particular day.  

Not only this, there are other days celebrated in contrast to this idea of nothingness. In an opposition to National Nothing Day, the Realist Society of Canada (RSC) has a religious holiday called There’s Always Been Something Day, pronounced THABS, which is dedicated on July 8 to the celebration of the “realization that if there was ever nothing, there would be nothing now.”

History is full of debates between philosophers and writers on the study of “nothing.” Because the question is, what is nothing? To answer the question of nothing, one must find the meaning of nothing. Even the true nature of “nothingness” in outer space causes disagreements between experts, because many claim even a true space devoid of anything is not nothing, because in space quantum particles exist even without gravity. 

On National Nothing Day, promotion of the day is kind of contradictory, because the day is meant as an “un-event,” which means it should not be seen as an event and refers to a thing of no importance, consequence or interest.

National Nothing Day timeline

1992
That’s quite a pitch

The “Seinfeld” episode airs, featuring Jerry and George pitching “a show about nothing” to a TV executive.

1973
On the books for real

National Nothing Day is listed in Chase’s Calendar of Events.

1972
A little too much free time?

Coffin proposes the day of non-observance.

1956
A modest proposal?

The mayor of Birmingham, Alabama floats the idea of a National Nothing Week, and the AP disseminates the story.

National Nothing Day FAQs

Is National Nothing Day a government holiday?

‘Fraid not. For any observance to become a public holiday takes an act of Congress, and well, we just don’t see it happening for this one.

Who is Harold Pullman Coffin?

He is the founder of the National Nothing Foundation, and was a columnist for the San Francisco Examiner in the 70s.

Is there really such a thing as nothing?

Answering that question is the name of the game, and there are as many conclusions as there are philosophers to make them. Let “nothing” stop you from pursuing your own answer.

How to Observe National Nothing Day

  1. Work the word into every sentence

    “Nothing doing.” “I got nothing.” “Nothing like it.” “Not for nothing.” The list goes on. See if friends pick up on it, and if not, tell them all about National Nothing Day.

  2. Do nothing

    It might be a nice exercise of self discipline to see how long you can go without doing anything. Of course, staring at a wall is still staring, not doing nothing, but the attempt could be interesting. It may lead into a Zen state of mind!

  3. Say nothing

    Take a day-long vow of silence, and don’t say a word to anyone. Just carry your phone with an open web page like this one, and flash the explanation when your friends are confused.

5 Amazing Facts About Nothingness

  1. We popped out of it

    In the Christian faith, God is said to have created the universe “ex nihilo,” “out of nothing.”

  2. Or did we?

    In Buddhism, nothingness can be a meditative state, a feature of reality, or an analysis of existence.

  3. No way, Jose

    In “Les Miserables,” Victor Hugo states, “There is no such thing as nothingness, and zero does not exist. Everything is something. Nothing is nothing.”

  4. The space between

    Outer space is not technically full of nothingness, as it contains a low-density plasma of hydrogen and helium, and the cosmic forces that affect them.

  5. It’s all about you

    The members of Metallica don’t remember the original reason for writing their song “Nothing Else Matters,” so these days they sing it about their fans, since nothing matters to the band but them.

Why We Love National Nothing Day

  1. It’s quite philosophical

    Like it or not, thinking about the nature of nothing can transform the mind into some deep contemplative territory. Nothing — pun intended — wrong with exercising the brain!

  2. It’s a nice rest

    Procrastinators, overworked people, workers with a backlog, pretty much anybody could use an excuse to sit back and take a day-long breather. Let your blood pressure subside, and if you’re drowsy let yourself sleep. It’s National Nothing Day.

  3. It’s a clever invention

    It takes a sense of humor to be able to observe a day of no observations. Enjoy the dichotomy. Today’s the day to let yourself off the hook, in case you were planning to get many things done.

National Nothing Day dates

YearDateDay
2020January 16Thursday
2021January 16Saturday
2022January 16Sunday
2023January 16Monday
2024January 16Tuesday

Let’s get social

Here are some special hashtags for the day.

#observances # commitments #responsibilities