Of all the national holidays we celebrate with glasses raised, one day is more deserving of that fanfare than all the others.
December 5th marks the anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition – the 81st anniversary, as of 2014. The enactment of the Twenty-First Amendment in 1933 was one of the greatest milestones in American history, marking the only time a constitutional amendment (the Eighteenth) has been repealed.
Prohibition was a time unlike any other in the United States. What began in the late 19th century as advocacy for temperance quickly became a drive toward teetotalism that would cleave a nation, turn law-abiding citizens to lawlessness, drive governmental crime & corruption, fund astonishing levels of gang violence, spark a monumental shift in social customs, especially for women, & profoundly shake public faith in federal institutions. It spawned speakeasies, generated the word scofflaw, & fanned the careers of people like Lois Long, a writer & socialite in New York City whose illicit escapades into Prohibition’s kaleidoscopically colorful nightlife the rest of the city followed ardently.
Consequently, its rescission demonstrated a national willingness to accept & remedy misguided policy, returned funding to a government in straits, & rekindled a national industry & traditions whose legacies carry on today. Yet for decades – up until about eight years ago, when Portland bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler began officially championing the reinvigoration of Repeal Day – December 5th passed almost unnoticed.
Morgenthaler, who had been encouraging his patrons to celebrate Repeal Day for years, began using his blog in 2006 to publicize the date, which he felt far more people ought to fete. Reaching out to like-minded industry bloggers & bartenders across the country & beyond, Morgenthaler began to build a small but stalwart support for the cause, which quickly snowballed.
Today cities from Seattle to Chicago to Washington, D.C. commemorate December 5th with parties, decor, drink specials & general revelry, & while the movement is still gathering steam, it seems a likely candidate for imminent adoption by the masses. After all, who doesn’t want another excuse to celebrate?