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D.C. has brunch. It has street festivals. Do we really need another reason to day drink? Supporters of Douglas Jefferson Day think so.
Most D.C. residents probably have no clue what Douglas Jefferson Day is—-because until recently, it didn’t exist. Organizers of “D.C.’s favorite holiday” are calling it a revival, but on Oct. 6, Douglas Jefferson Day is due to be inaugurated.
Created by a group simply known as the Douglas Jefferson Day Foundation, the newly instituted holiday celebrates a historic autumn day in 1804 in which a man claiming to be a distant cousin of Thomas Jefferson entered Rhodes Tavern and offered to buy rounds for all who would sit with him. Awed by fantastical tales of his travels, patrons imbibed with the supposed Jefferson well into the night.
But the jovial occasion ended in a most morbid fashion when Jefferson, leaving the tavern, was crushed by a passing vegetable cart. The regulars decided on the spot to commemorate Jefferson by instituting a holiday celebrating the spirit of his neighborly kindness and sense of community.
Yeah, that whole story is fabricated.
In an email, the holiday’s organizers—-who wish to remain anonymous—-say they founded the holiday as “something that people in D.C. could celebrate as day-to-day residents and feel was their own.” D.C. residents already have their own holidays—-Emancipation Day, anyone?—-but the coalition felt that D.C. needed a holiday that “[celebrated] not only friends but also promoting a bit of goodwill.”
Right now, the holiday is a grassroots movement, and they hope to keep it that way. The creators aren’t teaming up with any bars, hosting any sort of official Douglas Jefferson Day events, or looking for profit. “Our hope is that 10 years from now, a group of friends will walk into a bar to celebrate Douglas Jefferson Day,” says one organizer, and that they will be “friends who all met by buying one another drinks as strangers over the previous years. We also hope that it’s … celebrated in every ward, and is embraced in every corner of D.C.”
To take part in the celebration, follow three simple rules:
- Douglas Jefferson Day must be celebrated in a Public House of the District of Columbia, in the company of good friends
- A gift must be given to a friend. One must not have exchanged money for the gift, and it must be “no larger than a baker’s loaf.”
- In the spirit of Douglas Jefferson Day, you must buy a drink for a stranger.