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Burn Your Socks
By Lynn Whitney
Spring is finally here! March 20 marked the vernal equinox. The world is ready for winter to end and to welcome warmer weather and the spring equinox traditions and rituals that accompany it. For this one day, the entire world experiences the same amount of daylight and darkness, about 12 hours each.
Around the world, people celebrate this day with festivities. In Italy, seeds of lentils, fennel, lettuce or flowers are planted. In England, visitors gather around Stonehenge to watch to sun rise. India celebrates the Hindu festival of Holi, “festival of colors,” where celebrants toss brightly colored powders over each other and dance in the streets. Japan celebrates Shunbun no hi by bringing families together to visit ancestral graves.
Here, in the U.S., we burn our socks. Or you do if you are part of the yachting world.
Boaters tend to wear deck shoes without socks, through the boating season. What better way to celebrate putting your boat in the water, than by taking off your socks. But burning them?
It seems the tradition began in the mid 1980’s with Bob Turner, manager of the Annapolis Yacht Yard. Bob would spend his winters working on other people’s boats. It was often dirty work and he would come home with his socks full of paint, varnish and fiberglass. One day, which happened to be the Spring Equinox, Bob gleefully peeled off his socks, put them in a paint tray, doused them with lighter fluid and set them ablaze. He celebrated with a cold beverage. Bob later became the owner of the Annapolis Harbor Boatyard , and on the first day of spring, would invite his employees to stay late , burn their socks and have a beer. A tradition was born.
Jefferson Holland, previous Executive Director of the Annapolis Maritime Museum, and Poet Laureate of Eastport, 1995, penned the following poem
Ode to the Sock Burners
Them Eastport boys got an odd tradition
When the sun swings to the Equinoxical position,
They build a little fire down along the docks,
They doff their shoes and they burn their winter socks.
Yes, they burn their socks at the Equinox;
You might think that’s peculiar, but I think it’s not,
See, they’re the same socks they put on last fall.
And they never took ‘em off to wash ‘em, not at all…
So they burn their socks at the Equinox
In a little ol’fire burning nice and hot.
Some think incineration is the only solution,
‘Cause washin’ ‘me contributes to the Chesapeake’s pollution.
Through the spring and summer and into the fall,
They go around not wearing any socks at all.
Just stinky bare feet stuck in old deck shoes,
Whether out on the water or sippin’ a brew.
So if you sail into the Harbor on the 20th of March,
And you smell a smell like Limburger sautéed with laundry starch,
You’ll know you’re downwind of the Eastport docks
Where they’re burning their socks for the Equinox.
Here, At Riverside Marina, we celebrate a little later, May 14th to be exact. We want to make sure that the weather really has improved! Free your feet, burn your socks and join us to celebrate the beginning of the boating season.