Never on Sunday for the Tournament of Roses

by Laura Berthold Monteros

The 128th Rose Parade and January-2-2017103rd Rose Bowl Game in Pasadena, Calif. will not be held on New Year’s Day in 2017.  Why?  Because it’s a Sunday, and the Tournament of Roses Association just doesn’t do parades on Sundays. Instead, the Tournament of Roses will be held on Monday, Jan. 2 for the 19th time. The “Never on Sunday Rule” may seem like a blue law—an ordinance designed to enforce the religious practice of Sunday as a day of rest—but it actually makes a lot of sense in Pasadena.  Here’s a little history, and some geography to boot.

The tradition began in 1893 for the fourth Rose Parade. This was the first time the parade fell on a Sunday, and the Valley Hunt Club, which ran the parade, realized it might cause some havoc to run a parade along the main drag when a whole lot of people were in church. Colorado Blvd., the longest stretch of the Rose Parade, is lined with churches large and small and has been for well more than a century.

The problem wasn’t the worshipers, though one might suspect that the organizers would have preferred they stand outside and watch the parade and the clergy might have preferred that the parade-goers be in church. The problem was the horses. In those days, the horse was the main means of transportation, whether for a solo rider or Sunday carriages and Rose Parade floats.  Officials were concerned that the hubbub might frighten the horses. It’s a bit unclear whether the horses in question were the ones tethered outside the churches or the horses in the parade, who might become unnerved by the ringing of the church bells.

In modern times, people drive their tin lizzies to church and the noise of the parade won’t spook them.  But with Colorado Blvd. swamped with parade-goers, the adjoining streets packed with bumper-to-bumper traffic, and crossings completely closed down from before 8 a.m. until the parade is finished, it is almost impossible for anyone to attend a church that’s within a half mile of the parade route. So the tradition has remained, and in exchange (some say), the Good Lord has seen fit to send sunshine for almost every parade in the 128-year history of the Rose Parade.  Sometimes, it rains right up to 8 a.m., when the clouds peel back and the sun bursts through to reveal the gorgeous San Gabriel Mountains to the north.  It has only rained on the parade 10 times since 1890, and usually no more than a light shower.  Parade-goers may need a parasol, but rarely an umbrella.

The next time the Tournamet of Roses will be held on Jan. 2 is in six years, on Jan. 2, 2023. Follow this site by clicking on the “Subscribe” button at the left.