National Hugging Day, an event encouraging the sharing of an embrace with friends and loved ones, will be taking place on January 21st.
The event, which first took place in 1986, focuses on the idea that consensual hugs can help to combat loneliness, sadness, and other difficult feelings. Creator Kevin Zaborney has noted that the time between New Years and Valentine’s Day can be a period of emotional lows for many people, and thus chose a late-January timeframe when creating the event.
Expressions of affection through hugging are associated with positive reinforcement of supportive relationships, and are also linked to the release of serotonin and oxytocin among other scientifically-proven benefits. Rick Morrison, the founder of The Hug Alliance, notes that the one-day event showcases ‘how vital and powerful hugs are for both our emotional and physical health’. Physical health benefits of hugging can include the development of a stronger microbiome, a reduced risk of diseases associated with tumor necrosis factor-alpha, and a reduction of inflammation-triggering proinflammatory cytokines in the blood.
Founded in America, National Hugging Day was first published in Chase’s Annual Events on its inception in 1986. Since then, celebrations of the event have extended to Canada, Australia, Europe, Africa, Russia, the British Isles, and beyond. In addition to in-person global gatherings, the event is celebrated on its website with a list of the year’s most huggable people. This year’s list will be posted on January 17th.
While National Hugging Day typically encourages participants to share consensual physical affection with their full circle of friends and family, event creator Zaborney encourages participants to heed the guidelines provided by the CDC and WHO in celebrating this year’s event within the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This indicates that social distancing rules should be followed, with hugs taking place only within existing households and medically vulnerable individuals refraining from participating.