Happy Hour: we know it, we love it, we crave it after a long workday (or maybe that’s just us). But, where did it come from? Where does this strange rarely-ever-just-an-hour tradition come from? Is it a gift from god? A genius invention? Or something else? Keep reading to find out!
What’s in a name? Juliet Capulet asked that, and now I’m following up. ‘Happy Hour’ can be tracked back to early 1920s slang. More specifically, it was American Naval slang. Originally, it was an allotted amount of time that sailors on the ship could relax for a second – play games, joke around, and partake in athletic competitions.
This phrase was remembered in the years to come, especially during the (undoubtedly) bleak years of Prohibition. In secret speakeasies and bars around the nation, people would catch a before-dinner drink at local establishments that still (secretly) served. ‘Happy Hour’ was a term, likely lifted from naval slang, to label this before-dinner illegal drinking.
The term resurfaced again in 1959, in a copy of the Saturday Evening Post. It is in a story covering military life. The exact quote reads: “Except for those who spend too much during “happy hour” at the bar – and there are few of these – the money mounts up fast.” This shows that, as far back as 1959, not only did happy hour exist in the idea of drinking before dinner, but also in drinking before dinner AND saving money while drinking. The perfect storm.
So Happy Hour comes out of many unhappy things: being stuck on a boat, the prohibition era, and having to serve in the army (which, while admirable…probably isn’t the easiest job). So, to those who suffered for our happiness…we salute you.