World Smile Day Explained

Posted by The Home School in the Woods Team on

“SMILE!” is a saying often used by parents to their children. But why is smiling so important? Does it really have an impact on our mood and those around us? A man named Harvey Ball thought so! 

World Smile Day is celebrated the first Friday in October every year. The purpose of this holiday is to do one act of kindness that will help another person smile and be happy. 

So, whether it’s giving a plate of homemade cookies to a neighbor or drawing a pretty picture on the sidewalk for pedestrians, children can participate in World Smile Day and make the world a better place one smile at a time! 

Keep reading to find out more about the history behind this obscure holiday and some unique World Smile Day ideas you can do with your children. 

What Is World Smile Day? 

Commercial artist Harvey Ball established World Smile Day or International Smile Day. For those of you who don’t know who Ball is, he created the iconic yellow smiley face in 1963, becoming a recognizable symbol for happiness and good cheer. 

Over the years, Ball noticed that the symbol he created was becoming more and more commercialized and had lost the meaning he intended it to have. People weren’t actually happy when they looked at his yellow smiley face because of its constant presence in the marketplace.

Troubled by this realization, Ball came up with the idea for World Smile Day. The idea behind the celebration was to promote the smiley face as having no politics, no geography, and no religion – just happiness (at least for one day of the year). 

The holiday was first celebrated in 1999 in Ball’s hometown of Worcester, Massachusetts. Ever since, the Harvey Ball World Smile Foundation puts on an event the first Friday in October – this year it is October 2, 2020. 

Over the years, the event put on by the foundation has included the world’s largest human-made smiley face, as well as musical performances, balloon releases, and other fun activities like pie-eating contests and sidewalk chalk drawings. 

For those who can’t attend the event in Worcester, Massachusetts, you can still participate by doing an act of kindness that encourages another person to smile!

The History Behind Harvey Ball’s Smiley Face 

Harvey Ross Ball was born on July 10, 1921. He became interested in art during his time in high school when he became an apprentice at a local sign shop. Harvey later went on to study fine arts at the Worcester Art Museum School. 

In 1959, not long after World War II, Ball decided to open his own advertising firm called Harvey Ball Advertising. One day he was tasked by a client to increase their company’s employee morale with an image. 

In less than ten minutes, Ball created a simple smiley face. Its distinguishing features included a sunny colored circle with oval eyes (one slightly bigger than the other) and an imperfect arc for a face with creases on each end of the mouth. 

He presented his creation to the client, and they paid him $45. 

The design was then printed onto pins and handed out to employees to encourage workers to smile throughout their workday. Surprisingly, the buttons were a hit, and the client was printing the design by the thousands!

By 1971, more than 50 million smiley face pins had been sold and were an international icon. Unfortunately for Ball, he never trademarked the symbol, meaning he would only ever earn $45 for his design. 

However, Ball’s son said Harvey never regretted not applying for a trademark as he “was not a money-driven guy” and used to say things like, “I can only eat one steak at a time and drive one car at a time!”

The Benefits of Smiling

A smile is an expression that communicates a positive feeling. It can also be used to encourage and greet others. Harvey Ball believed that smiling could change the world, but is that actually possible? 

According to various science and spiritual teachers, this could very well be true! 

Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh once said, “Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”

According to an article by Psychology Today, smiling affects your brain by activating neurological messages. These messages release feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin, all of which work to relax your body and relieve stress.

Aside from improving your mood and relieving stress, smiling could also help lower blood pressure, boost the immune system, reduce pain, and even increase overall life expectancy! 

With that said, both children and adults can benefit from taking part in World Smile Day. Smiling positively impacts those around you, but it also improves your mental health and encourages you to smile every day of the year. 

How Can You Partake in World Smile Day? 

If you or your children tend not to smile, World Smile Day is the perfect time to start! Participating is simple – all you have to do is smile! This could mean trying to smile at every person you meet throughout your day or using a smiley face emoji in the text messages you send. 

This can be quite fun for kids to participate in, too. Children can pass out smiley-face stickers and wish others a happy World Smile Day. They could tell someone a funny joke, or even dance to a song that makes them happy. 

Random acts of kindness are also encouraged on World Smile Day. This can be as simple as giving your mailman a snack and “thank you” card, or visiting grandma with a bouquet of fresh-picked flowers. 

If you happen to make someone smile, share it on social media and use the hashtag #WorldSmileDay to encourage others to do the same! For more random acts of kindness to commit on World Smile Day, check out this article, 67 Awesome Random Acts of Kindness for Kids.

Mark Your Calendar for World Smile Day!

Do you and your family plan on participating in Harvey Ball’s World Smile Day? If so, be sure to tag us on Facebook and Instagram! And if you know other families who would enjoy taking part in this unique celebration, don’t forget to share this article with them! 

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  • So cool! Kids would love learning about all these holidays!

    Donna Hutson on
  • I had never heard of this before. I love the idea. Too bad I read this after it happened this year. It reminds me to encourage a few of my children to smile more

    Deena on
  • I didn’t know there was a World Smile Day! This is awesome.

    Nicole Dechert on
  • So interesting to know the history of this day and the happy face.

    Meg on
  • This is so fun! I had no idea this was a holiday!

    Kristin Hults on

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