This year, for the 19th time in its 128-year history, the Rose Parade will not be staged on Jan. 1, which falls on a Sunday. This has been a tradition with the parade that carried over to the Rose Bowl Game, which first kicked off in 1902.

These prohibitions are what has come to be known as the “Never on Sunday” policy, first adopted in 1893 by members of the Valley Hunt Club, originators of the annual winter floral pageant, and later its current producer, the Tournament of Roses Association, which took over the event in 1895, five years after it started.

A group of well-to-do businessmen from places like Indiana, Illinois, New York and Pennsylvania, the Valley Hunt Club started the event to show off the region’s warm and healthy winter weather to visitors. They enacted the “policy,” so the story goes, because marching bands  and horse-drawn carriages traveling along Colorado Boulevard spooked horses tied up in front of Christian churches on or near Colorado Boulevard and disrupted services.

But perhaps there was more to it than just that. Adoption of such a rule might more accurately reflect the attitudes and character of the people of those times. Pasadena’s pioneering East Coast transplants were well acquainted with blue laws, or Sunday laws, which since the 1600s prohibited such things as alcohol use, commercial sales, sporting events and other physical activities (like parades) on Sundays. These types of laws were in effect in many states, with the exception of a few.

Most blue laws aimed to restrict some or all Sunday activities for religious reasons, and banning the sale of certain items, like cars, on specific days, like Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.

California has no blue laws on the books limiting the sale of beer, wine and spirits, which according to alcohollaws.org, can be sold at bars and over the counter seven days a week.

Pennsylvania was one of the initial states to enact such statutes, the first of those shortly after becoming a British colony. That particular 1682 law doesn’t touch on alcohol use, but prohibits most other activities, like hunting, shooting and working, with only “acts of necessity and charity exempt,” according to a story in the Harrisburg Patriot-News (pennlive.com). In 1933, the state overturned a blue law prohibiting sporting contests on Sundays, but more prohibitions were enacted in years to follow, such as one against playing pool, and another outlawing the showing of movies. It wasn’t until 2003 that Pennsylvania ended its own Never on Sunday law against alcohol sales, according to the Patriot-News.

Many of Pasadena’s founders were not only teetotalers, but also natives of Indiana, where blue laws that are even stricter than those in Pennsylvania are still in effect.

In fact, Pasadena was the first city in California to outright ban the sale of alcohol — and not just on Sunday. After incorporating in 1886, it was the only totally “dry” city in the state, followed two years later by South Pasadena, which as an unincorporated area near Pasadena attracted many of the purveyors of alcohol leaving town, according to a story appearing in the South Pasadena Journal on the city’s 100th birthday in March 1988.

At the first meeting of the newly formed board of South Pasadena trustees on March 8, 1888, “The first ordinance passed, after fixing time and place of future meetings, was Ordinance No. 4, which made it unlawful to establish or maintain a tippling house, dram shop, cellar, saloon, bar, barroom, sample room or other place where spirits, malt or mixed liquors were sold or given away,” writes Journal reporter Sally Clouse. “This ‘dry ordinance’ was an exact copy of Pasadena’s famous prohibition ordinance. Pasadena was California’s first bone dry city. South Pasadena was the second.”

Over the years, blue laws throughout the country have been repealed. Of course, Pasadena has changed as well, now home to some of Southern California’s hottest nightclubs and drinking establishments, most of which operate seven days a week. South Pasadena these days also has its fair share of popular places where alcohol flows freely. 

It’s interesting to think that as the nation’s blue or Sunday laws have fallen out of favor, the Tournament of Roses still adheres to a club policy enacted more than a century ago, one not unlike a blue law in its attempt to accomplish a public goal, namely maintaining order, for religious purposes.

Over the years, some have quipped that the Tournament’s Never on Sunday policy is why it’s only rained on the parade a handful of times in the past 128 years; the Maker’s thanks for giving Him and/or Her a day off. With that in mind, perhaps it really is best not to tempt fate and leave this “policy” just the way it is.