If the famed novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald was right, that life begins all over in the summer, residents of the Northern Hemisphere can look forward to big changes tomorrow.

Summer is synonymous with many things, from swimming to all kinds of fun under the sun. For many of us, it’s also connected to indulging on ice cream. Although it wasn’t invented here, Americans eat a lot of it – over 1.6 billion gallons each year. Records at Mount Vernon show that President Washington spent $200 on the favorite treat during the summer of 1790. The emergence of refrigeration popularized it with the masses.

It’s unclear if Christians eat more ice cream than non-Christians, but as we head into summer, you might be interested to know there’s a surprising connection between believers and the ice-cream sundae.

Laws prohibiting work and various activities on Sunday date back to America’s settlement in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619. In those early days before the country’s founding, residents weren’t only not permitted to conduct certain business on the Sabbath but also required to attend church twice on Sunday.

Known as “Blue Laws”– a somewhat disparaging term that correlated the color blue with being “rigidly moral” – these regulations forbade shopping, gambling, drinking alcohol – and consuming “sucking sodas.”

Yes – sucking sodas.

Since consumption of soda on Sunday was considered by some to be frivolous and a violation against the spirit of the Scriptures, pharmacists – who were allowed to be open and who ran soda fountains – decided to substitute ice cream sodas with selling ice cream with chocolate sauce instead.

It seems no “blue law” prohibited the dispensing of chocolate sauce, whipped cream or cherries.

Historians believe the term “ice cream sundae” was coined to communicate the fact that unlike ice cream sodas, this treat was available after church.

As for why it’s spelled “sundae” and not “Sunday”?

Different theories exist – from pharmacists not wanting to demean the day and offend religious authorities to wanting to coin a memorably named product – a Marketing 101 kind of thinking.

Graver and far more substantive issues confront us today, and we may find the history of blue laws and ice cream sundaes quaint and even charmingly humorous. But we know there is something attractive and admirable about a culture that prioritizes worship and strives not to offend the sensibilities of people of faith.

The next time you enjoy a few scoops of your favorite ice cream smothered in hot fudge, maybe even to mark the start of summer, you might be reminded that you don’t have just the proprietor or ice cream maker to thank – but also a culture of faith from which sprung one of the world’s favorite treats.


Photo from Getty.