Others may have written about it before me, but this year I thought I would do my part to promote this day of celebration. Repeal Day, otherwise known as December 5th, marks the anniversary of the 21st Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Not everyone went to law school, but some of us know that in January of 1919, the 18th Amendment was ratified prohibiting the sale, possession and consumption of alcohol. Making it illegal may have done more to promote the allure of the cocktail than to squelch it, but it simultaneously destroyed distilleries and microbreweries throughout the nation, not to mention the effect it had on the innovative craftsmen behind the bar. Thirteen years or so later, the 21st Amendment was ratified, repealing our “Noble Experiment”. December 5th, 1933 became known as Repeal Day and it is still celebrated to commemorate our legal right to drink alcohol.
Ok, despite the accurate historical references, officially, it’s a made up holiday. Still, there is growing momentum around this date as cocktail awareness spreads and quality spirits and classic recipes continue to gain popularity. When you start to examine the idea more closely, you see that it really does have merit.
First, let’s look at timing. It’s perfectly nestled between major winter holidays right after Thanksgiving, so your family has probably left town or you have finally returned from visiting them. Maybe you started shopping earlier in the week or perhaps you are just trying to enjoy the calm before the big holiday storm. Either way, Repeal day is situated in the middle to provide a good excuse to get back together with friends.
Second, Repeal Day is for everyone. If you are Irish, you might celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, Mexican and it’s Cinco de Mayo. But it makes no difference on Repeal Day—everyone is invited. There’s no expectations either, no costumes and no special colors or decorations to put up. You can drink beer, margaritas, wine, cocktails—everything is fair game.
Finally, although people will find a reason to drink on any holiday (heck, 5pm occurs every day of the year for that matter), only Repeal Day has a specific connection to the consumption of alcohol. We probably don’t need another excuse, but if we picked a day to celebrate the cocktail, this is it. It’s also a celebration of our constitutional rights.
I did a quick search online to see if I could find anyone promoting Repeal Day activities in the Twin Cities and I came up empty. If you know of any events to celebrate this historic occasion, feel free to post the details in the comments below. If you are reading this from other cities, I know there are events around the country, so try not to rub it in. Everyone else, pick your poison and raise your glass!
Passed by Congress December 18, 1917. Ratified January 16, 1919. Repealed by amendment 21.
After one year from the ratification of this article the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited.
The Congress and the several States shall have concurrent power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of the several States, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the States by the Congress.
Passed by Congress February 20, 1933. Ratified December 5, 1933.
The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.
The transportation or importation into any State, Territory, or Possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited.
This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by conventions in the several States, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the States by the Congress.