The Sock Burning Tradition at the Equinox

Woo Hoo! It's spring sock burning time.

If you can hear the whirring of a sander in the boatyard and the cry of an osprey in the creek, it might be time to stoke up a small fire for a sock burning! The tradition of sailors burning their socks at the spring equinox in Chesapeake country began in an Annapolis boatyard, some say in the deep freeze of 1977; other say in the early 1980s. Since the first boat service guy torched his stinky socks at the end of a workday and toasted their demise with a tall Bud in hand, the tradition has spread like… well, you know.

sock burning
Sock burning is a much-loved tradition with sailors around the Bay.

This year’s equinox was officially on Tuesday, March 19, so expect yacht clubs and marinas to celebrate the weekend before or after that day, if not on the exact day. The Annapolis Maritime Museum hosts its big fundraiser, the Oyster Roast and Sock Burning, on Saturday, March 23. 

A few suggestions for your sock burning: The tradition started as a spontaneous decision to burn nasty socks at the end of a workday in a busy season, so it’s not meant to be a raucous party or raging bon fire. A small fire in contained fire pit or even a bucket would work. Gather your sailing friends with a beer (or your beverage of choice) in hand, burn your socks, propose a toast to spring, and go home for dinner. 

Make sure your socks are made of natural materials, such as cotton or wool. When burnt, high tech socks may turn into foul-smelling balls of plastic, messing up your party vibe and possibly your nice chiminea. 

Take a few pictures and send them to [email protected]! Happy spring, sailors, and safe burning!