Home   Calendar   Holidays   the United States   Return Day Delaware

Return Day Delaware in the United States

Return Day is a traditional festival for the state of Delaware that is held on the Thursday after Election Day in November. It can fall on or around November 4 every other year to celebrate the announcement of the election results in Georgetown, Delaware.

polling place with a Vote Here sign
Many people traveled to cast their vote at the polling station in Geoergetown, Delaware for the election and then returned two days later to hear the results.
Many people traveled to cast their vote at the polling station in Geoergetown, Delaware for the election and then returned two days later to hear the results.

What Do People Do?

Many people travel to Georgetown, Delaware for the celebration of Return Day. The festivities start with a concert and a traditional free ox roast in the town circle. The festival events include food vendors, competitions, musical entertainment, arts and crafts, and a parade of the winning and losing candidates from both parties.

The candidates ride in horse pulled carriages or antique cars around the town circle, followed by the ceremonial “bury the hatchet” – where the Sussex County chairmen of the Democratic and Republican parties meet on stage, clutch the hatchet and together plunge it into a box of sand from Lewes – that signifies the end of the competition. The town crier reads the results of the statewide and Sussex County elections during the ceremony, and afterward all attendees receive a free roast beef sandwich.

Public Life

Return Day is not a federal holiday but is considered a state holiday in Delaware. Schools and government offices shut down for the afternoon. Most downtown streets in Georgetown will be closed, but some roads will reopen on a phased-in basis after the Return Day parade has ended.


In 1791, the Delaware Legislature required all votes to be casted on Election Day at the new County Seat in Georgetown, Delaware. Thus, all Sussex County residents had to travel to Georgetown in order to vote on Election Day, and then return two days later to hear the results – hence the name Return Day. The winners of that year's political races would parade around the town circle in horse pulled carriages, and then the losers and the chairs of the county's political parties would perform the ceremonially "bury the hatchet" into a tub of sand.

In 1811, voting districts were created across the state, but the Board of Canvassers would still meet two days later in Georgetown to announce the final election results. Although television and the internet have eliminated the need for Return Day, the tradition is a time for Delaware residents to join together for a day of fun and a touch of nostalgia. Return Day is recognized as the only event of its kind in the nation.


The ceremonial “burial of the hatchet” symbolizes the official end of Delaware’s political season and a return to civility within Delaware politics. The sand is brought from Lewes, which is the site of the original county seat. The “hatchet” is a single-handed striking tool (axe) with a sharp blade and is also referred to as a tomahawk.

Return Day Delaware Observances

WeekdayDateYearNameHoliday TypeWhere It is Observed
ThuNov 42010Return Day DelawareState holidayDelaware
ThuNov 82012Return Day DelawareState holidayDelaware
ThuNov 62014Return Day DelawareState holidayDelaware
ThuNov 102016Return Day DelawareState holidayDelaware
ThuNov 82018Return Day DelawareState holidayDelaware
ThuNov 52020Return Day DelawareState holidayDelaware
* Only some parts of Delaware observe this holiday.

Quick Facts

Return Day is held on the Thursday after Election Day in Georgetown, Delaware. It is a post-election tradition that celebrates the announcement of the election results with a unique festival and ceremony.

Return Day Delaware 2018

Thursday, November 8, 2018 (local in Delaware)

Return Day Delaware 2019

Return Day Delaware does not occur in 2019


Name in other languages

Return Day DelawareEnglish
Día de Resultados de ElecciónSpanish
ימי החזרת דלוורHebrew
العودة يوم ديلاويرArabic
주 델라웨어를 반환Korean
Valgresultater DelawareNorwegian
Tag der Bekanntgabe der Wahlergebnisse in DelawareGerman

List of dates for other years

Other holidays in November 2018 in the United States

Fun Holiday on November 8, 2018

You might also like

The Hindu deity Rahu.

Solar Eclipse Myths

The solar eclipse has inspired many mythical stories and influenced human behavior. Even today, eclipses of the Sun are considered bad omens in many cultures. more

Watching Lunar Eclipses

A lunar eclipse can be seen with the naked eye, unlike solar eclipses, which have special safety requirements. more

December Solstice Facts

10 things you may not know about the December Solstice, the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. more