Last weekend, Nemo reminded us why we bought ankle-length down jackets and shearling-lined snow boots as first years. This weekend, the Bowdoin Student Government (BSG) and Entertainment Board (eBoard) will stoke our love for the colder months with a revival of an old Bowdoin tradition, Winter Weekend.
This year’s three-day Winter Weekend will celebrate the Maine winter with horse-drawn carraiges, broomball, snow sculpting, hot chocolate, Polar Bear dips, giant snowball fights, dog sledding, and much more.
While many students are not aware of its history, Winter Weekend dates back to the fraternity Christmas House Parties from as early as the 1920s.
On December 11, 1929, the Orient ran an article titled: “House Party Plans Fast Taking Shape.” The article goes on to detail the up coming events of the weekend, such as fraternity house dances and a Masque and Gown production.
By 1940, Life Magazine took notice of the growing Bowdoin tradition and published a three-page pictorial on the 1939 festivities. Life wrote, “But they knew that all the Northeast offered no gayer, jollier college parties than the annual winter house parties at Bowdoin.”
The pictorial included shots of the female guests at the College dressed for the dances—Bowdoin did not become co-ed until 1971—a snowball fight, and a couple on a “pony-sleigh” ride.
Throughout the next 70 years, the celebration was known as “Winter’s Weekend,” and continued to be immensly popular.
The 1988 Winter’s Weekend included an Italian-themed dinner provided by Bowdoin Dining services, bonfires, and hayrides.
In 1994, the tradition took on a Casino theme that offered impressive prizes, such as a free trip for two to anywhere in the U.S. There was also an all day music festival and games on the Quad.
Todd Herrmann ’85, associate director of employer relations at the Career Planning Center, remembers snow sculpture competitions and the hockey team defeating Babson College in an upset during his own Winter Weekends at Bowdoin.
Another alumnus, John R. Cross ’76, recalled the weekend’s snow sculptures in a post on The Bowdoin Daily Sun in 2010.
“I remember seeing a Venus de Milo of snow that gleamed whiter than Carrara marble (“World Peace without Arms” Cold War themed), a Polar Bear engineer on a locomotive of snow, a Statue of Liberty, a camel kneeling between two pyramids, a likeness of JFK’s head, dragons, and other wonders of the winter world.”
Judging from old issues of the Orient, it seems that the tradition was in decline by 1998. The February 20 issue for that year only mentioned “the Winter Weekend’s outdoor games” in a brief sentence in the Calendar page.
The 2000-2004 volumes of the Orient contain no obvious mentions to Winter Weekend.
While there were smaller efforts in 2009 and 2011 to hold a “Frozen Ivies” or “Winter Carnival.” They were largely forgettable.
Though current students may not realize it, Herrmann clarified that Winter’s Weekend used to be as much a part of the calendar as Homecoming and Ivies.
He said, “It was something that everyone on campus looked forward to—to break up the time between Winter Break and Spring Break.”
Michael Hannaman ’13, co-chair of the eBoard, said that he and Dani Chediak ’13, president of BSG, “both recognized that there’s sort of this gap in programming during the winter. It’s sort of this thing we bear and just, you know, wait for spring.”
He added, “We both thought it was important to provide something for campus to be able to be outdoors, to enjoy Maine, and just enjoy the community.”
After uncovering the recently forgotten tradition, Hannaman and Chediak began to seek out support. Once they got the rest of BSG, eBoard and Student Activities on board this past November, everything began to fall in place.
“We’re really thankful for everyone’s work. This is a huge thing, really, that’s going on,” Hannaman said.
Sponsors for these events include Baxter House, Ladd House, Reed House, MacMillan House, Quinby House, BSG, eBoard, Student Activities, Athletics, the Bowdoin Outing Club, Bowdoin Curling, the Class Councils, Polar Bear Nation, and the A-Team. It’s truly a campus-wide effort.
“There are so many ways to get involved in this,” said Hannaman, “that I hope there is something for everyone. That’s where the success of the event will lie.”
While activities such as broomball, snow ball fights, and hockey games with hot chocolate on the Quad will continue the tradition from the past 70 years, Hannaman and Chediak hope to affect a change in the mentality of the event.
“We thought that this would be a great thing to revive, but also sort of to redefine and make it about the College Houses and athletics,” Hannaman said.
“We want this to be about the Bowdoin community being together without the focus being on alcohol. We hope it will be just as fun and that people will be just as involved—we’re definitely trying to start a tradition that can and will live on after we graduate.”