Return Day

Return Day is somewhat of an odd holiday that’s observed in Sussex County, Delaware, in the United States. It’s a part-day holiday on which non-essential government offices close in the afternoon, but most businesses operate under their normal schedules.

It’s a holiday on which some people travel to Georgetown, Delaware, so they can celebrate the day. In Georgetown, there are competitions, musical events, arts and crafts, and plenty of food vendors.

What exactly does this holiday celebrate, you ask? Well, it’s a holiday that occurs on the Thursday after Election Day and is a celebration of the election results that are announced that day.

The History of Return Day in Delaware

This holiday goes back to the 18th century. This is when the Delaware Legislature required that all votes be cast on Election Day at the new county seat in Georgetown. All Sussex County residents then had to travel to that location in order to vote and then they had to return several days later to hear the results.

Although voting districts were created in 1811, the Board of Canvassers would still announce the election results in Georgetown. Since the only way to hear the results when they came out was to be there in person, many people continued to travel on Return Day. As the years went by, the tradition continued to be observed, even though the Internet and TV make the trip unnecessary nowadays.

Observing Return Day in Delaware

One of the main events observed on this holiday is the ceremonious “Burying of the Hatchet.” During this event, a hatchet is buried to symbolize a return to civility after the election season.

Other events that are observed on this day include a traditional ox roast, a parade of the winning and losing candidates from each party, and a lot of other festivities. There are also plenty of food vendors to keep the local crowds fed and happy.

Where is it celebrated?
United States (State holiday) - Delaware*
When is it?
This year (2024)
November 7 Thursday