President’s Day Gives Consecutive Long Weekends

On the night of Thursday, January 26 at 8:43 p.m., many students were in their rooms hurriedly trying to finish their homework. That was when the email arrived. Members of the community heard the familiar chime of a new email and found out that they wouldn’t be going to classes the next day. Students went off running around in their dorms, screaming, cheering, and laughing.

This free day, known as President’s Day, is a long-standing tradition at Choate. The idea is that students need a break, having, amid the dark and cold of a Connecticut winter, worked long hours in their classrooms and dorm rooms. Head of School Dr. Alex Curtis announces the day by an Instagram post on @ChoateCurtis, followed by a school-wide email. It’s always a challenge for students to try to guess which day Dr. Curtis will call President’s Day. This year, for the first time since Dr. Curtis became Head of School, he called President’s Day on a Friday.

Nico Decker ’20 said, “It’s really great because it’s a Friday — it’s kind of like having a double long weekend. Even though I had a Gold Key tour first period I was still really happy about President’s Day. I think it’s necessary to Choate and to the well-being of Choate students. It’s also fun trying to guess which day it’s going to be on. It brings unanimous joy.”

Over the years, this day off has been called a variety of names, and has had various traditions that came with it. The current tradition is a 30-minute long SAC dance that occurs after the email is sent and ends at curfew. This year, however, there was no official SAC dance due to the prevalence of flu and stomach viruses on campus.

Some students did, however, gather at the SAC for an unofficial and impromptu dance. Esi Dunyoh ’20 commented, “People were playing music and were dancing in the SAC. I think of it more as an impromptu celebration rather than an “illegal” dance, as some people called it. The Tuck Shop was open and people were getting food there and hanging out with their friends — it was like a Friday night.”

Previously, President’s Day has been called Mountain Day, Make Up Day, Tom Curtain Day, Apple Blossom Day, Headmaster’s Day, and Hutchins Day.

According to Archivist Ms. Judy Donald, Mountain Day, which was the name of the free day during the late 1940s, was a day when the Choate boys went on a hike to the “Top of the World.” The goal of this free day was to get the students outside and enjoy the fresh air. A 1946 issue of this newspaper reported that the free day was announced at breakfast when Headmaster Seymour St. John recited a verse from Psalm 121.

Make Up Day was less popular among students — it was a combination of two days, each with half a day of classes. Tom Curtain Day, was a day during fall term that commemorated the death of Tom Curtain ’33, a popular Choate student who had gone to Yale but had died young of leukemia. Apple Blossom Day occurred in the spring, from the late 1940s until the early 1950s, when the orchard that used to exist between the library and the dining hall blossomed.

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