On the campus at Cornell University, as is probably the case at many institutions around our country, there are rituals that signify certain milestones in the student calendar. This past Friday was just such a day at Cornell. It was Dragon Day! Dragon Day is what seems an off-shoot of the pagan rituals of the Spring Equinox, it is the beginning of Spring break and as one might expect, a day to blow off a little steam and celebrate the end of the cold winter months in Ithaca.
As the tradition has it, the students of the Art School create a huge dragon in the week leading up to Dragon Day. It is then paraded across campus to pass in front of the rival Engineering School where it is met by a large phoenix to do battle. Then it is transported to the Arts Quad where, in great fanfare and surrounded by throngs of people and wild students in various costumes and odd attire, the head of the dragon is removed to be whisked away back to a safe place in the Art School, and the body is set ablaze.
Usually Dragon Day is preceded by an evening of decorating the trees around the quad with large quantities of toilet paper. But in the last couple of years this seems to have been somewhat neglected or perhaps discouraged by the administration. Although I wouldn’t think that would prevent the recurrence of this ritual. I think it is more a bit of laziness on the part of the students. All the same, the Cornell Police and Life Safety firefighters stand by as this revelry takes place, left to do their jobs of safeguarding the campus and the students from their own wildness and exuberance.
It’s hard to know just what the themes are that guide the dress of some of these students. But if nothing else, they are very creative and unashamed.
It’s a time for release, for celebration, and a ritual that we all look forward to on campus in that it simply marks our official end of winter (except for perhaps, the grounds crew that are left with the mess to clean up).
All images are Copyright © George Cannon, All Rights Reserved.