Delaware (State of)
Originally the "lower counties" of Pennsylvania, and thus one of three Quaker colonies founded by William Penn, Delaware has developed its own set of traditions and history.
Sights to See: The Outer Ring
There are many interesting places to visit in the exurban ring beyond Philadelphia, linked to the city by history rather than commerce.
Customs, Culture and Traditions
Abundant seafood made it easy to settle here. Agriculture takes longer.
Land Tour Around Delaware Bay
Start in Philadelphia, take two days to tour around Delaware Bay. Down the New Jersey side to Cape May, ferry over to Lewes, tour up to Dover and New Castle, visit Winterthur, Longwood Gardens, Brandywine Battlefield and art museum, then back to Philadelphia. Try it!
Early in November, two days after each election, Georgetown Delaware puts on a festival called Returns Day. About two hundred years ago, there was a law that all ballots had to be cast in person at the courthouse in the county seat (Lewes, at that time), and it took two days to count the votes. Everyone, candidates included, would hang around at the courthouse to learn who had won. After a few elections, except in wartime when the ceremony was temporarily skipped, the popular tradition has continued even though of course the election results are known much earlier. Although the function of revealing election results has yielded to the news media, the ceremony has assumed importance for its own sake. Unless it rains pretty hard, the parade lasts three hours, with ten or twelve marching bands, and local amateurs struggling with bagpipes. The candidates, winner, and loser, ride gamely around the square in horse-drawn carriages. You can imagine what would happen to the political future of any candidate who declined to participate in what is now a mandatory public entertainment.
|U.S. Senator from Delaware|
Two features of this festival are especially notable. There is a hatchet-throwing contest, trying to get the flying hatchet to catch one corner in a post. It's not an easy thing to do. And then there is hatchet-burying, which is said to date back to the Nanticoke Indians. The traditional hatchet is brought from Lewes, as is the sand. This is all said to be the origin of the folk-saying about burying the hatchet, and it's really very heart-warming to believe the election is only an election, and the competition is over. It's probably not entirely true, of course, but it symbolizes what the public wants to believe is true. And what the public is telling politicians -- had soon better become true, again.
Originally published: Tuesday, June 20, 2006; most-recently modified: Monday, May 20, 2019