Sock Burning Etiquette

Welcome to one of the Chesapeake Bay’s most endearing yet really weird traditions, the Sock Burning Festival! It’s where we all get together, get barefoot, and burn stuff. It’s to celebrate the spring, I swear. This is what you need to know.


First of all, remember that you’re going to be exposing your feet in public months before you’re actually ready to do so. Maybe clean those piggies up a touch? There will be photographers present taking Fond Memories of 2017 photos, so ask yourself: are my feet really ready to make some Fond Memories in their current state? If the answer is no, plan a quick trip to the pedicurist's (men, you too) the morning of the Festival.

Second of all, this is an event to burn socks, and socks only. Don’t plan on burning other things. Don’t show up thinking you can burn a pair of boxers or granny panties as a substitute. No one wants to see that. We’re having a hard enough time with you waving your socks around. And this event is solely about socks; we cannot stress this enough.

Once we saw a heartbroken woman show up with a box of her ex-boyfriend’s pictures and letters, and watched her burn those one by one while softly singing “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” into the cold March wind. It’s weird enough that we’re holding a sock festival. There’s enough crazy in the room, ok?

Speaking of socks, you want to bring your old wool or cotton socks. Have you ever tried to burn fleece socks? They don’t burn; they just smoke and turn into charred, hard-as-rock pucks of despair for some poor volunteer to clean up. Burning your nasty old argyles is bad enough. Don’t make it any worse by throwing in your heat-repellant techwear.

Even the removal of your socks requires a speech on etiquette. As you take your socks off, you are encouraged to put your shoes back on for safety and self-respect reasons. But do not even think about asking someone to hold your socks while you tie your shoes. Volunteers are there to clean up trash, not to expose themselves to the biohazards hanging out in your foot sweat.

After you take off your socks, move carefully and cautiously toward the fire. Place your socks delicately on the flames. Do not wave your socks around your head like a deranged cowboy of the Lone Sock Range. As soon as you place your socks on the fire, take your Fond Memories photo and then immediately move away from the flames. Do not stand by the fire, barefoot, demanding attention and recognition. Do not bring out your guitar. Do not recite a poem you wrote for the occasion.

After you’ve burned your socks and taken your Fond Memories 2017 photo, remember to find those volunteers and offer them a drink. They are going to be cleaning up your charred socks. They deserve a beer.

If the person next to you has burned his or her socks and refuses to put shoes back on, do not call attention to his or her feet. Do not say, “You have one gnarly nail there, bro,” or “Oh I know just the woman to file that callous off.” Just patiently and politely remind them that their shoes are nearby, and wouldn’t it be a grand idea to do some walking?

One issue that we see with sock burnings is that folks think that since their socks are off, other things should come off, as well. Look. Sock burnings happen in the very early days of spring. This is not a “sun’s out, guns out” situation. Your abdominal region is not ready for prime time. Keep your clothes on and enjoy this festival as it should be enjoyed: under many layers.

If you find your mind starting to judge the shape of your friends’ feet at the Festival, remind yourself that “What happens at the Festival stays at the Festival.” Judge not your friends for what the cruel winter has done to their bodies. Take only Fond Memories of 2018 photos, and leave only your disgusting, burned socks, charred and smoking on the beach. It’s the way springtime is meant to be celebrated.

By Duffy Perkins