Although Cupid often seems out of ammunition on this campus, he may have a few arrows left in his arsenal this weekend. While Winter Carnival will feature people plunging into ice cold waters, some romantics will be warmed by the celebration of an older tradition, Valentine’s Day.
Valentine’s Day began in the Roman Empire, under the rule of Emperor Claudius II or Claudius the Cruel. The emperor was having difficulty getting soldiers to join his military at a time when Rome was engaged in vicious military campaigns. He thought the reason was that men did not want to leave their loves, so he canceled all marriages and engagements in Rome.
The Christian priest Valentine married couples secretly. Upon discovery of the priest’s actions the emperor sentenced him to life imprisonment until his death on February 14, 270 A.D.
A few hundred years later, when Christianity began to surge through Europe, the church replaced the pagan mid-February fertility festival Lupercalia with Valentine’s Day, and Valentine was made a saint.
The tradition stuck and is celebrated today as a time for lovers, greeting cards, chocolate and flowers.
That the holiday falls over Winter Carnival weekend seems appropriate since Winter Carnival, too, has a history of encouraging romance. Shortly after its foundation, Winter Carnival became an excuse for Dartmouth men to invite trainloads of women to campus. Men met their girlfriends and blind dates at the train station and brought them to Hanover where some stayed in fraternity houses vacated by men for the weekend.
A few buds of romance have even blossomed into marriages.
F.W. Johnson ’30 had an especially romantic Winter Carnival weekend; he married his date, Lydia Davies, during the festivities.
Dr. C. Everett Koop ’37, former US Surgeon General, and his wife Betty fell in love during the Winter Carnival of 1936. He recounted the tale in his memoirs, “Koop: The Memoirs of America’s Family Doctor.”
“It was Thursday, and since the great influx of Dartmouth dates for the weekend did not begin until Friday, I was able to find a cheap room for Betty up on the third floor of the Hanover Inn…I was falling in love, and I knew it,” Koop wrote.
Time passed and the flame still burned. “As we talked, we rapidly recaptured the magic spirit of our short time together at the Carnival tea dance…I never asked her to marry me, but I knew she was going to and she knew it too,” Koop wrote.
The couple married in 1938.
Unfortunately, for all the pounding hearts and sweaty palms of yesteryear, there seems to be a persistent paucity of romance in the recent past. Today, some students are turning to dating services to find a significant other.
The ’01-Class-Council will play matchmaker. Michael Foote ’01 and Prince Neelankavil ’01 are co-chairs of a blind date service project. They sent out a survey blitz to members of the class of ’01 which if returned will be matched to another participant’s survey. The service will inform the lucky couple of their match and send them off to fall madly in love. Maybe.
For those less willing to take risks, the annual Winter Carnival Swing Ball provides a more traditional opportunity to make your move on that certain someone.
For $5 a person, you can engage in a night of swinging madness on Feb. 13, at the Top of the Hop and Alumni Hall. Tickets are on sale at the Collis information desk.
The dance, to be held from 8 p.m. to midnight, will feature the White Heat Orchestra and food by the Hanover Inn.
Last year 800 tickets were sold and students had to be turned away at the door due to a high turnout, according to Ball co-Chair, Emily Anadu ’00. She said she is expecting as many students to attend this year’s event.