Happy Hour seems to be a go-to for men and women in the mid-afternoon. It is a beautiful time where drinks are often priced two-for-one or several dollars off. Some establishments also offer food and drink deals during Happy Hour, with half-off burgers or hors d’oeuvres and low-priced beers, mixed drinks, and glasses of wine pairings. The question many of us do not think about is where this festive time originated?
William Shakespeare referred to “Happy Hour” in his play King Henry V, written around 1599. This is one of the first known references to a time of the day where men and women meet for festivities. The term did not stop at Shakespeare, however. Fast forward about 300 years to the United States Navy who started using the phrase “Happy Hour” to describe semi-weekly meetings where men and women “smokers” would congregate to enjoy music, games, and other activities. The meetings where “smokers” met were originally referred to as “The Happy Hour Club” and “Happy Hour Social Club,” which then simply became “Happy Hour.” Around 1913 “Happy Hour” became the go-to phrase describing a group of people who enjoy each other’s company on a consistent basis.
The Prohibition Era also brought new meaning to “Happy Hour.” During Prohibition, when the sale of alcohol was strictly forbidden and punishable by law, men and women would often meet at speakeasies- illegal drinking establishments- for cocktails before they went off to dinner. This time of day was also coined as “Happy Hour.”
Fun facts about “Happy Hour” around the United States:
1) Massachusetts banned all Happy Hours in 1984; followed by Illinois and North Carolina shortly thereafter- Illinois banned has been lifted as of 2015.
2) On January 1st 2012, Utah State Legislature also banned Happy Hours.
3) In July 2011, Pennsylvania actually lengthened its Happy Hours from the original two hours to four.
4) Kansas recently lifted their 26-year-long ban of all Happy Hours in June 2012.
5) Happy Hours have been banned in the Republic of Ireland since 2003.
As you can see, Happy Hours are a topic of controversy in varying countries across the world. Nevertheless, for hundreds of years “Happy Hour” has symbolized a time where men and women indulge in an alcoholic beverage towards the end of the day. Miriam Webster’s dictionary defines Happy Hour as “a period of time during which the price of drinks (as at a bar) is reduced or hors d’oeuvres are served free.” This definition seems very accurate when referring to today’s Happy Hours. Shakespeare probably had no idea the term would become so popular centuries later.
Cheers to History!