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The Senate is built upon tradition. Find out more about long-standing practices of the Senate.


Daily Rituals of the Senate

In their various forms, rituals and ceremonies greet the newly elected Senator; they accompany the member through a legislative career; and they bid farewell at its conclusion.  

Start of Each Day’s Session

The Chaplain’s Daily Prayer (pdf)

Farewell Rituals (pdf)

Maiden Speeches

From the Senate’s earliest days, new members have observed a ritual of remaining silent during floor debates for a period of time—depending on the era and the Senator—that ranged from several months to several years. Today, of course, this ancient Senate tradition survives only in part—that part being the special attention given to a member’s first major address.

Maiden Speeches, April 19, 1906

The Tradition (pdf)

Washington's Farewell Address

No Senate tradition has been more steadfastly maintained than the annual reading of President George Washington's 1796 Farewell Address. This tradition, originally designed to be a morale-boosting gesture during the Civil War's darkest hours, began on February 22, 1862.

History of the Address

Copy of the Address (pdf)

Washington's Farewell Address Notebook

The Senate Gavel

History of the Senate Gavel

Golden Gavel Award

 Senate Bean Soup

According to one story, the custom began early in the 20th century at the request of Senator Fred Dubois of Idaho. Another story attributes the request to Senator Knute Nelson of Minnesota.

Related Items

Interested in related materials? Take a look at these Virtual Reference Desk subjects for more information.

Oath of Office

Senate Chamber