Mess night is one of the Corps’ most celebrated traditions, surpassed only by the Marine Corps’ birthday. The mess night is fashioned to fit a formal gathering, with a military flavor present. Mess night is a ceremonial occasion where Marines, wearing their dress blue uniforms with ornate medals, gather to share the Corps’ customs and courtesies as well as build camaraderie and solidarity.
Mess Nights can be traced back as far as the days of the Roman Legions and the Vikings, when victory celebrations were held after battles. The traditions of the Marine Corps Mess Night originated in the 1920’s in Shanghai, China with the Fourth Marine Regiment. A member of the regiment, Captain Lemuel Shepherd (later Commandant of the Marine Corps), was invited to attend the Mess of the Second Battalion, Scots Guards. He and his commanding officer, Colonel Davis were so impressed with what they saw that they soon instituted their own Mess Night. This tradition was quickly embraced by the rest of the Corps.
Mess Night is a formal dinner designed to further promote the esprit de corps of our brotherhood of Marines. There is some discrepancy in the usage of the phrases “Mess Night” and “Dining In” amongst the services of the U.S. Some members of the other services refer to their Mess Night as a “Dining In;” whereas, they refer to their Dining In as a “Dining Out.”
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