Trailblazing and Consciousness Raising: How January Got Dry

Magazine Archives
| Winter
2022 |
Volume 1,
Issue 1

Trailblazing and Consciousness Raising: How January Got Dry

From the Winter 2022-23 Issue of AFTER Magazine

This article is Part 1 of a two-part series on temperance and the dry movement. See Part 2 on the current boom in alcohol-free culture and the future of the movement in our Spring 2023 issue.

If you’re reading AFTER, chances are you’re familiar with, have participated in, or are curious about Dry January. The annual month-long abstinence campaign officially began in 2013, when business leader Emily Robinson joined British charity Alcohol Concern, bringing with her the idea of abstaining from alcohol for the 31 days of January. The idea was styled on the Finnish Raitis Tammikuu (Sober January) of 1942—an effort to stay steadfast and ration grains in the face of World War II—but took on a life of its own as part of this timely British campaign for social change. The Dry January concept grew steadily over the next decade, amounting to a record 1 in 5 adults participating in 2022. While the Dry January campaign is relatively new, the tradition of eschewing alcohol, as well as the rapidly-expanding alcohol-free beverage industry that has sprung up around it, is the resurgence of a larger global dry movement centuries in the making. A long history of trailblazers have challenged social drinking habits in the fight for clear heads and higher purposes. 

 

By the time American colonies declared independence from England in 1776, Founding Fathers like George Washington, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson were known to start each morning with a drink. Grog houses, taverns, and pubs were gathering places for after- hours discussions of politics and community business. The largely Christian nation also imbibed Communion wine each Sunday during Mass. Per person alcohol consumption grew in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, hitting a peak of 7.1 gallons per year. 

 

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