There is always something to laugh about on the first Sunday in May. Because of this flexible date is celebrated in many countries as World Laughter Day. In 2021, this event will fall on May 2nd and at 2:00 p.m. German time (12:00 p.m. GMT) a global laugh for world peace will be sent to heaven for a few minutes. However, the information on the duration varies between 60 seconds and 3 minutes. Reason enough to include this global day of laughter in the calendar of curious holidays from around the world and to tell its story below.
Who started World Laughter Day?
In contrast to many of the other curious celebrations and action days gathered here, in the case of World Laughter Day there is very specific information about its origins and backgrounds.
The original idea or initiative of the World Laughter Day goes back to the Indian doctor Dr. Madan Kataria founded the yoga laugh movement. On the occasion of the first edition of this day of action on January 11, 1998, the Kataria gathered over 12,000 participants in Mumbai, India. Worldwide, the yoga laughing movement is organized in over 6,000 so-called laughter clubs (as of 2010), which are denominational and politically neutral. The declared aim of World Laughter is to create a global awareness of friendship through laughter and thus to set a positive sign for world peace.
World Laughing Day is now celebrated in numerous countries around the world, with the first World Laughing Day meeting outside of India taking place in Copenhagen, Denmark, where more than 10,000 people gathered on City Hall Square on January 9, 2000 as part of the so-called Happy Demic even made it into the Guinness Book of Records.
Why does World Laughter Day fall on the first Sunday in May?
On the other hand, in the course of the research, I was unable to find out why the initiators decided on the flexible date of the first Sunday in May, of all things. The big advantage here is, of course, that most people don’t have to work here and the weather is usually a bit friendlier than in January.
As always with such events with a flexible date, the following are all dates for the coming years:
- 2019: Sunday May 5th
- 2020: Sunday 3rd May
- 2021: Sunday May 2nd
- 2022: Sunday, May 8th
- 2023: Sunday, May 7th
- 2024: Sunday May 5th
- 2025: Sunday May 4th
- 2026: Sunday May 3rd
- 2027: Sunday May 2nd
- 2028: Sunday, May 7th
- 2029: Sunday May 6th
The theory of laughter yoga and the origin of laughter clubs
Laughter Yoga or Hasya Yoga aims to generate laughter through special body and breathing exercises – i.e. via the motor level – which puts people in a happy state and thus in equal parts physical and mental health should be beneficial.
For this purpose, various breathing, stretching and clapping exercises are combined with pantomime in groups, which are intended to encourage laughter. The aim is to use eye contact and playful elements to move from voluntary to free laughter, which, according to the basic idea of Laughter Yoga, embodies an expression of a child’s playfulness.
This form of yoga has its origin in the self-experiments of the American science journalist Norman Cousins, but it only became popular through the efforts of the aforementioned Indian doctor Dr. Madan Kataria and his wife Madhuri Kataria. According to Kataria’s theory, laughter can also develop its effect without a specific reason or without humor.
Criticism of laughter yoga as a form of therapy
Even if there is nothing wrong with an action like World Laughter in the sense of a positive sign, there are some corrected doubts about laughter yoga as a therapeutic panacea (gelotology).
Of course it would be nice if all problems could be laughed away with with a little practice, but here, too, a healthy amount of skepticism applies. One aspect of being human, which claims to be holistic in the therapeutic context, should be critically questioned. To put it differently and in a slightly more nasty way: Those who first have to learn to laugh in seminars seem to have such big problems that therapy on the actual symptom seems hardly sufficient.
In addition, and this is actually the biggest point of criticism: the greatest benefits of such forms of therapy are usually always drawn by those who offer them for a fee. And strictly speaking, that’s not laughable at all (…)
But as I said, as a positive sign, such a day of action in honor of laughter is a great thing.