Ritual – Massachusetts

The informant speaks below about an annual ritual held at her high school:

“This is ‘Head of School Day.’ It’s, um, something we have at Phillips Academy Andover and, um, essentially, um, we were on the trimester system. So in the winter trimester, it’s just, it’s . . . if you’ve ever been to Boston in the winter, it’s not a very fun place. So I guess kind of it’s a way to, like, as a kind of way to help out the students they’d have what you call ‘Head of School Day,’ where the head of school would just randomly call off a day the night before, so—probably at 7 or 8 o’clock so that most kids had gotten most of their work done, so that, like, if you didn’t sleep in you could actually have, like, a full day off. What’s really interesting about it is that, um, how she would announce it was that she would walk into the, um, the what’s-it-called . . . the cafeteria? We had, like, four cafeterias, places, and she would walk in with a hockey stick and she would raise it up and everybody would just go crazy and it was just, it was just this huge thing where everyone was just like, ‘Oh, when is it going to be?’ And y’know, people had, y’know, theories of like they could nail it down to the exact day, or like if, y’know, it was supposed to be like negative twenty out, then she would call it then so she wouldn’t have to call it a snow day, because they didn’t have snow days. Even if there was three feet of snow there wasn’t a snow day.”

“I liked it. I thought it was a bit of a cop-out because, like, they wouldn’t have snow days and people would be driving for, y’know, 45 minutes and have a good drive in like 3 feet of snow and like, that was like their snow day. But I liked it.”

This school must have been a boarding school for the Head to be able to talk to the students directly in the evenings. I wonder how the poor parents would feel about this ritual if it were not a boarding school, having to make plans at 7 or 8 in the evening for their kids to be taken care of the next day during deep snow. This calendrical ritual, like the winter solstice holiday, clearly didn’t take place on the same date every year. The holiday, aside from keeping teachers from having to drive in deep snow, seems like a way to celebrate the idealized Western idea of childhood—children should be able to go out and play once in a while.