The origin story of “happy hour” is contested and blurry, but most historians and etymologists circle 1599, when Shakespeare’s Henry V proclaims, “Omit no happy hour that may give furtherance to our expedition.” It wasn’t until the 1910s that the US Navy held Happy Hour Social three nights a week aboard the USS Arkansas, when, instead of drinks, it was boxing, dancing, singalongs, and picture shows. Today is National Happy Hour Day, and after a few drinks, the origin story is whatever you say it is. If you’re going by the archives, consider the 1959 Saturday Evening Post article that popularized the phrase. Shortly after, a 1961 Providence Journal article dove into detail.
The saying was heard in California cities near naval bases in the early ’50s, and the tradition began at least as early as Prohibition. But nothing prohibits remaking the hour in your vision, if you can. Here are some suggestions:
1. Spend an hour however you want or need (conditions permitting). You don’t even have to tell us what it is at email@example.com.
2. Wave across the internet, or the room, to someone you’ve been meaning to. Don’t exceed 60 minutes of this.
3. In under an hour, read our Mother Jones column “What Are You Hoping For?”—with or without a beverage in hand—and let us know how you’re processing the election, the pandemic, the media’s coverage, and the personal and political roads ahead.
4. See number one: Do something you want or need.
I don’t want to hear from any horologist that “Hour Day” makes no sense. I’m far fussier than you could ever be about contradictions in terms, but this is fine. We can have an entire day for an hour. But only that. Happy NHHD.