Enter the Dragon
Happy March, y’all! Even though it remains 2012: The Winter That Wasn’t, I expect springtime to make its way to Ithaca soon enough. I’m looking forward to all the traditional signs of a change in the seasons: small patches of baby plants sprouting up, leaves budding, dragons arriving–
Well, actually, the dragons have been here since the middle of February.
Each spring, first-year Cornell Architecture students construct a fantastically enormous dragon. “Dragon Day,” as this hallowed practice is called, is over 100 years old, and was started by that good ol’ goofball Willard Straight ’01 (that’s 1901, not 2001, guys). Before Will started having buildings named after him and stuff, he was a prankster with a lot of architect pride who thought his college should have its very own day. For whatever reason, Willard picked St. Patrick’s Day as the perfect time to celebrate his school.
Where do the dragons come in, though? Well, because I’m committed to promoting the well-being of dragons everywhere–I mean, committed to providing accurate Cornell history on this blog, I did a little more research. According to Cornell’s Archives, Willard and his buddies spent one early Dragon Day constructing a full-sized St. Patrick and a serpent for him to drive away. Presumably because assembling a massive saint would get boring after a while, St. Patty fell by the wayside while the dragon stayed on for generations to come.
Now, calling me a dragon fan might be the understatement of the 21st century. In sixth grade, I wrote an extensive report examining the roots of cross-cultural examples of dragon mythology. My room back home has dragons on the curtains and bed-quilt, in bowls and hanging from the walls. Heck, the pajama pants I’m wearing as I type this very post have a dragon embroidered on the left leg! Therefore, I was a little shocked when I learned that the Cornell dragon was traditionally burned at the end of this rigmarole. How terrible! Fortunately, this modern age is more dracofriendly than Willard’s time: today’s dragons apparently merely suffer a symbolic auto-da-fé after doing “battle” with the engineers’ phoenix.
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