22nd Annual Blessing of the Fleets
A time-honored tradition passed down from generations of mariners and navies around the world, the 22nd annual Blessing of the Fleets will take place at the United States Navy Memorial on Saturday, April 13, 2013. As a highlight of the National Cherry Blossom Festival–the nation’s largest springtime celebration, the event is free and open to the public and will begin at 1pm, immediately following the Festival Parade.
The centuries-old ‘Blessing of the Fleets’ ritual is intended to safeguard crews and ships from the danger of the seas through a blessing given by a clergyman at the water’s edge. During the Navy Memorial’s ceremony, sailors from the US Navy’s Ceremonial Guard proceed across the outdoor plaza’s “Granite Sea” to pour water from the Seven Seas and Great Lakes into the surrounding fountains, “charging” them to life and ushering in the spring season. The service is accompanied by music from the US Navy Band.
Following the sacred ceremony, culinary specialists from the White House Mess will prepare and serve Navy bean soup to visitors in the adjacent Naval Heritage Center. Guests are invited to relax in the Naval Heritage Center’s Burke Theater for a live performance by the Washington Revels Maritime Voices. Singing “Songs of the Sea and Shore,” the musical group will portray the old life at sea and back home, featuring sailors' use of sea chanteys and the joys and hardships of the women ashore.
This year’s Blessing of the Fleets marks the launch of the US Navy Memorial’s “Year of Military Women” exhibit and special programming. Historical and modern photographs in addition to original artwork and recruiting posters from military collections, uniforms and other rare artifacts will be on display in the Naval Heritage Center through March 2014.
The Navy Memorial will present a series of events (TBA), including wreath-laying ceremonies, lectures, book signings and symposia in honor of Armed Forces women and their service to our nation.