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Photo man in period costume with hatchet in front of horse-drawn buggy
Mayor Joe Booth of Georgetown carrying the ceremonial hatchet, 1996 Return Day

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Return Day
A Local Legacy

Do you know what "to bury the hatchet" means? Did you know this phrase came from politics?

In 1791, an unusual Sussex County, Delaware, tradition started. Back then the law required that all votes had to be cast in Georgetown, the county seat. Voters would arrive from all over the county, cast their ballots, then go home while the votes were counted. Two days later, the voters and politicians would return to Georgetown to find out the election results. The day the results were in and all the people returned was called "Return Day."

Of course the winners had reason to celebrate, but over the years Return Day became both a time to celebrate and a time to heal political differences. Today, votes in an election are usually known soon after the polls close, but this tradition continues. Part of the ceremony includes a symbolic "burying of the hatchet," following an old Native American tradition. Rival politicians together bury a ceremonial hatchet in the sand to show that it is the end of the political race and the end of any hard feelings the candidates may have had about each other during the campaign.

The next time you are angry with someone, why not just bury the hatchet?

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