The Free Hugs Campaign is a social movement involving individuals who offer hugs to strangers in public places. The hugs are meant to be random acts of kindness - selfless acts performed just to make others feel better. International Free Hugs Month is celebrated on the first Saturday of July and continues until August first.
The campaign in its present form was started in 2004 by an Australian man known only by the pseudonym "Juan Mann". The campaign became famous internationally in 2006 as the result of a music video on YouTube by the Australian band Sick Puppies, which has been viewed over 74 million times.
The Free Hugs campaign in its present form was started by Juan Mann on December 1, 2004 when he began giving out hugs in the Pitt Street Mall in central Sydney. In the months prior to this, Mann had been feeling depressed and lonely as a result of numerous personal difficulties. However, a random hug from a stranger made an enormous difference, with Mann stating that "...I went out to a party one night and a completely random person came up to me and gave me a hug. I felt like a king! It was greatest thing that ever happened."
Mann carried the now iconic "FREE HUGS" sign from the outset. However on his first attempt in his hometown, where he returned to find that he was the only person he knew, as his friends and family had moved away, he had to wait fifteen minutes before an elderly lady came up to him and gave him a hug.
Initial distrust of Juan Mann's motives eventually gave way to a gradual increase of people willing to be hugged, with other huggers (male and female) helping distribute them. In October 2005 police told them they must stop, as Mann had not obtained public liability insurance worth $25 million for his actions. Mann and his companions used a petition to attempt to convince authorities that his campaign should be allowed to continue without the insurance. His petition reached 10,000 signatures. He submitted it and was allowed to continue giving free hugs.
Mann befriended Shimon Moore, lead singer for Sick Puppies, shortly after commencing his campaign, and over a two-month period in late 2005 Moore recorded video footage of Mann and his fellow huggers. Moore and his band moved to Los Angeles in March 2005 and nothing was immediately done with the footage. Meanwhile Mann continued his campaign throughout 2005 and 2006 by appearing in Pitt Street Mall in Sydney most Thursday afternoons.
In mid-2006 Mann's grandmother died, and in consolation Moore made the music video using the footage he had shot in 2004 to send to Mann as a gift, stating in an interview that, "I sent it to him on a disc as a present and I wrote down 'This is who you are'." The video was later uploaded onto YouTube, where it has been viewed 74 million times as of October 2013. 
On October 30, 2006, Mann was invited by Oprah Winfrey to appear on her show Oprah after her producer's doctor saw the Free Hugs video on YouTube. Juan Mann made an appearance outside her studio that morning, offering free hugs to the crowd waiting to see the taping of that day's episode. Oprah's camera crews caught several people in the audience hugging Mann as the morning progressed.
On October 23, 2007, Juan Mann announced his residential address online and offered an open invitation to anyone to come over and chat on-camera as part of his 'open-house project'. Mann hosted 80 guests over 36 days. On November 25, 2007, Mann's landlord threatened him with eviction, so he launched an online appeal.
On December 25, 2007, Juan Mann published an e-book as a free download. On November 22, 2008, at YouTube Live Sick Puppies did a performance of "All the Same" while Juan Mann gave hugs to crowd members. On February 13, 2009 a Free Hug Day took place.
On August 23, 2009, "Juan Mann" announced via his Facebook page linking to an article on his blog that he is "retiring" from Free Hugs, and has invited any interested party to take over the role – though he stresses that he does not own any rights relating to the Free Hugs concept, nor any income, and that there is nothing stopping anyone from undertaking the activity at any time, any place in the world. The successful applicant will take over the responsibilities of maintaining the Free Hugs website and forum, as well as any other "official" Free Hugs presence Juan presently maintains online.
A website that is generally recognized as the official site of the free hugs campaign, The Official Home of the Free Hugs Campaign, was launched in mid-2007. This site enables those involved in the campaign to better organize themselves and coordinate their efforts. Many initiatives resulted from these efforts. For example, on the websites forum (hosted on Dragon Arts), those involved in the campaign called for an annual International Free Hugs Day. Juan Mann declared that the day would fall on the first Saturday following June 30 each year; this being the first date that Juan ever offered free hugs in Pitt Street Mall, Sydney in 2004. The first International Free Hugs Day was July 7, 2007, the second on July 5, 2008 and the third was on July 4, 2009 (but see above re Valentine's Day).
Juan Mann's Official Blog remained dormant after his apparent retirement but has recently been updated, proclaiming itself as the "true home" of the Free Hugs Campaign and regularly updated with interviews conducted with individuals holding Free Hugs Campaigns internationally.
Publicity and expansion
|This article is in a list format that may be better presented using prose. (April 2011)|
- In October 2006, a college student, Yu Tzu-wei, began a campaign in Taipei to "hug everyone in Taiwan"
- In October 2006, a Free Hugs Campaign began in Tel Aviv, Israel.
- In late October 2006, several Free Hugs Campaigns were organized in a number of cities in Italy.
- On October 27, 2006, students Steve Loftus, Mark Wonnacott and Jeff Jones from Illinois-based McKendree University were featured in news media, including MLB.com, for giving free hugs before game five of the World Series in front of Busch Stadium.
- On November 6, 2006, a group of eleven people led by a 24-year-old man named 'Baigu' (白骨) tried the same campaign in Shanghai, only to be detained for one hour for not having a permit to hold a gathering in a public place.
- On November 10, 2006, A Free Hugs event in Boulder, Colorado was covered by local media.
- On November 18, 2006 Geneva Online, an online community, organized the first Free Hugs event in Geneva, Switzerland.
- On November 22, two Korean boy students organized a Free Hugs Campaign outside the Ngee Ann City shopping mall along Orchard Road, Singapore. In a novel bid to spread the festive cheer, they had this campaign for the following consecutive Saturdays.
- In late 2006 a Free Hugs Campaign commenced in Belgium with events on December 22 and December 23 in Antwerp and on December 30 in Ghent.
- In March 2007, as part of an initiative to combat discrimination against people infected with AIDS or HIV, the French Government will call on its citizens to embrace strangers who hoist signs in the street offering free hugs.
- On April 14, 2007, Portuguese waitress Sara Viera living in Newcastle Upon-Tyne, England was reported on both BBC News and local press to be giving Free Hugs in the streets of Newcastle City Centre.
- On July 29, 2007, 2 men (Abdulla Jafari and Sagger Khraishi) started a Free Hugs campaign in Amman, Jordan. Both of them were arrested that night. They have been accused of harassing females by giving them hugs and violating the law by having an unauthorized carton sign that says "Free Hugs". Since then, the free hugs campaign have been banned in Jordan.
- On December 20, 2008, Indian composer A. R. Rahman and percussionist Sivamani created a song titled "Jiya Se Jiya", inspired by the Free Hugs Campaign and promoted it through a video shot in various cities in India.
- In February 2009, a free hug offer startled downtown Toronto shoppers.
- In July 2009, a Jordanian radio station celebrated International Free Hugs Day by creating the first Free Hugs video from an Arab country.
- In August 2009, in Norway Free Hugs were offered by the Red Cross Youth in the yearly market "Steinkjermartnan".
- On July 3, 2010, The first "FREE HUGS Campaign for AIDS" was organized by a group of friends from a non-profit organization called "SHADOW of BODHI", at six different places at Chennai, India.
- Since February 10, 2011, a group of young people are organizing several events in Portugal, starting in the North and ending in the South. They already had several presences on Portuguese television and have been congratulated by the father of the campaign, Juan Mann. The group remains in activity and continues to give hugs around Portugal and soon hopes to spread love in the whole country. They had given hugs in Vila Nova de Famalicão and Braga (twice), Guimarães, Porto, Aveiro, Espinho, Coimbra and Lisbon. On September 21, with Vincent Marx, Fernando Moinho and Edwin Bustos, they organized the event called "Free Hugs for World Peace". For 2012, they are trying to break the Guinness World Record for "Most People Hugging Each Other" in Vila Nova de Famalicão.
- On March 16, 2012, a small group of friends from a Strongsville, Ohio a suburb just outside of Cleveland, Ohio set out to spend a weekend giving Free Hugs to people at the local mall. It was a success to the people. Everyone was happy with it and smiles were giving by a lot of people but the mall security continued to complain while an overwhelming amount of workers were on board for it and several security guards also support the effort to. The video of the day is on YouTube https://www.facebook.com/FreeHugsStrongsville?ref=hl a second day is currently planned by the group to be held in March 2013 at Southpark Mall in Strongsville, Ohio.
- In September 2012, Polish traveler, Maksym Skorubski went for a trip "Hugs Around The World in 80 days", during which he gave out free hugs to 6,783 people in 19 countries around the world. His tour was nominated by National Geographic Traveler as the best journey of 2012.
|Commons has media related to Free Hugs.|
- Official Home of the Free Hugs Campaign
- Juan Mann's Official Blog, Founder of the Free Hugs Campaign
- Wayback Machine (archived August 22, 2008)
- The Illustrated Guide to Free Hugs, still online for free available via Scribd, visited 31.10.2013