As one of the world’s most famous secret societies, the Freemasons have built something of a reputation for keeping the inner workings of our organization under wraps.
In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, however, Britain’s Freemasons are breaking with convention to invite the general public to take part in a centuries-old tradition to remind people that they are “not alone.”
The “Nine O’clock Toast” is “a tradition within Freemasonry that has been observed for many hundreds of years,” Dr. David Staples, the CEO and Grand Secretary of the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) told Newsweek in a recent interview.
“From modern-day meetings at the pub to gatherings convened at the height of two world wars, the tradition”, he said,” sees members raise a glass during dinner at 9 p.m. each evening to honor their ‘Absent Brethren’ or their fellow Freemasons who cannot be there with them.
“Our members know that wherever they are in the world and whatever they are doing at 9 o’clock, somebody will be raising a glass to them and remembering them,” Staples said.
In the wake of the novel coronavirus outbreak, which has forced friends and family around the world to remain apart in order to avoid catching and spreading the virus, such a message could likely not be more welcome.
“This is a tradition that we have had for 300 years and it’s something that we think helps people to not feel quite so lonely and isolated,” Staples said.
With the COVID-19 outbreak forcing people to stay apart, whether they are living under lockdown policies, are in quarantine, or are choosing to self-isolate, Staples said he hoped that participating in the Freemason tradition might help them feel less alone.
Using the hashtag #TimetoToast, Freemasons and members of the public are being asked to participate in a nightly “virtual” toast.
“This is about sharing one of our traditions which we think will help people to feel a little less lonely, a little less isolated,” he said. “If they can do that every night, to raise a glass to the people they’re missing.”
In addition to sending out a reminder to people that they are not alone, Staples said participants will also be toasting to the many health care workers who are at the frontlines of combating the COVID-19 outbreak, as well as to workers, such as delivery drivers, who are also keeping cities and countries running behind the scenes, despite the risks.
While this tradition is not strongly present in United States lodges it would seem appropriate during this time of isolation that we join our British brethren… at least in spirit (if not with spirits) with a thought each evening for those we are separated from.
Stay safe and healthy until we return to normalcy.