New American Ritual: the 8pm Howl

Those aren't canines spouting off
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 10, 2020 12:27 PM CDT
New American Ritual: the 8pm Howl
Brice Maiurro, back, hugs Shelsea Ochoa after they led a howl in Cheesman Park in Denver on Wednesday.   (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

It starts with a few people letting loose with some tentative yelps. Then neighbors emerge from their homes and join, forming a roiling chorus of howls and screams that pierces the twilight to end another day’s monotonous forced isolation. From California to Colorado to Georgia and New York, Americans are taking a moment each night at 8pm to howl in a quickly spreading ritual that has become a wrenching response of a society cut off from one another by the coronavirus pandemic, per the AP. They howl to thank the nation’s health care workers and first responders for their selfless sacrifices, much like the balcony applause and singing in Italy and Spain. Others do it to reduce their pain, isolation and frustration. Some have other reasons, such as to show support for the homeless. In Colorado, Gov. Jared Polis has encouraged residents to participate.

"There's something very Western about howling that's resonating in Colorado," says Brice Maiurro, who formed the Facebook group Go Outside and Howl at 8pm with his partner Shelsea Ochoa as Colorado's shelter-in-place order went into effect last month. The group has nearly half a million members from all 50 US states and 99 countries. "We wanted to do this mostly because people are feeling isolated right now," says Ochoa. "I think it hit on something others needed." Why howling? In California, friends and family of Ochoa's would howl at sunset; in Brazil, where she lived recently, residents would cheer at sunset. Poets like Maiurro would howl at the moon during back-alley poetry readings in Boulder. "There's no wrong way to do it," she says. "When people look back on this and with so many sad stories, hopefully they'll also remember this as one of the good things." (Read more coronavirus stories.)

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