Blog

Blue Laws – Never on Sunday

I grew up in what some would consider the northernmost fringe of the Bible Belt – an area of our country steeped in conservative Christian values. Of course, I had no idea about such things. It was just home and I loved everything about it.

Virginia, like many other states, observed Blue Laws which affected what you could and could not do or buy on Sunday. Considered a day of rest and worship, no work should be done on that day.

The problem with the law was that the interpretation and the adherence was as varied as the citizens it applied to. Enforcement  varied from county to county and often times adherence demands were stricter when a new political force was trying to make the law central to their platform. Attempts to repeal the 1610 law in Virginia continued until finally successful in 1988.

What I remember was the law was intended to keep people at home on Sunday to go to church and spend time with their families. No work was allowed. Stores were generally closed with the exception of places that sold essential goods – and essential seemed to always be up for interpretation. Women could not buy nylons for example. You could buy a loaf of bread but you could not buy food that required work to prepare.

The sale of alcohol was a big no, no with blue laws. In fact many states still have such restrictive laws. In some states or counties, you cannot buy alcohol until after noon and some, not at all.

**********

Another interesting practice was the closing of businesses at noon on Wednesdays. I have read many different reasons for this. In our area, we had church service on Sunday morning and Sunday evening and usually had Bible study on Wednesday evening. This could have played into the need to get home early and have time to prepare dinner and then go to church.

I have also read that Wednesday afternoon is when many of the stock yard auctions were held. Being in a rural and farming region, this was an important aspect of life there. Add that to the increased amount of business being held on Saturdays, a mid-week break would not have been unusual.

Regardless, the banks and retail businesses all closed for the day at noon on Wednesday.

Blue laws existed in many northern states as well, but were perhaps not as prevalent. I doubt there are many places in most states that are not open for business on Sunday these days with the exception of those owned by certain religious interests.