(by Chantal da Silva, Newsweek, March 23, 2020)
As one of the world’s most famous secret societies, the Freemasons have built something of a reputation for keeping the inner workings of their 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 on Monday.
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…