Return Day: A Delaware Holiday

georgetown delaware return day


A quick glance at the Delaware state holidays calendar shows that November is a busy month for holidays. Election day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, Black Friday...Return Day?

You’ve probably never heard of Return Day before. That’s because Return Day is a holiday specific to Delaware.

What is Return Day?

Return Day is a Delaware holiday held in Georgetown two days after an election. It was originally intended for voters to return to where they had voted (Georgetown, the county seat) to hear the results of the election. 

When is Return Day?

Return Day in Delaware falls on the Thursday after the general election. This year Return Day falls on Thursday, November 5, 2020.

Return Day Origins

Return Day dates back to the late 1700s, though the date of the first Return Day is unknown. State Law indicates that it may have started as early as 1792. In 1791 the state law was amended to move the county seat from Lewes, Delaware (along the coast) to a more centrally located town, Georgetown, Delaware.

Following the votes on election day, the voters would return to Georgetown two days later to hear the results of the election from the Board of Canvassers.

By the late 1800s, Return Day was a well established custom for the people of Sussex county. It became a festival and celebration, with food, music, and vendors setting up near the courthouse. It was customary for the attendees to be served a roast ox meat sandwich.

Modern Return Day Celebrations

Today Return Day is celebrated in Georgetown with a festival including food vendors, craft booths, and a parade of politicians in horse drawn carriages. Vice President Joe Biden attended Return Day celebrations in 2012. 

Return Day Closures

Sussex county in the state of Delaware is closed after 12pm on Return Day on Thursday, November 5th. All government divisions and buildings will be closed.

Return Day Cancellation 2020

It was announced in early September that the Sussex County Return Day Committee has canceled the Return Day celebrations this year due to Covid-19. The last time the festivities were canceled was from 1942-1946 due to World War II. You can find the official announcement from the Return Day Committee here.