COLUMN: Spring break is older than you think

Monday, April 18, 2011 | 12:00 p.m. CDT
The members of the Historical Society include Dean Asher, Kelly Moffitt and Katelyn Amen.

Editor's note: This team-written column is one in a series of five on spring break, all written from a different life perspective.

Plenty of college students go on spring break with the sole purpose of drinking from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. But don't condemn the young generation for wild springtime antics. It's really not their fault.

Meet the Historical Society

We aim to put current events in the context of history and frame issues based on their change or consistence over time.

Katelyn Amen is a senior magazine major. Last spring, she wrote for the education beat at the Missourian. Dean Asher is a senior. He reported on lifestyles at the Missourian in the fall of 2010.  Kelly Moffitt is a junior magazine major. Last fall, she wrote for Vox Magazine.

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Like so many great things in our modern, thriving culture, spring break debauchery developed from ancient Greece.

According to a 2009 Time magazine article, spring break holds its roots in ancient Greek and Roman culture. Back then, people celebrated the arrival of spring with bacchanalian festivals, which honored the god of wine.

If you're against this sort of reckless release, know that this type of spring break might be on the decline. The sun, surf and sand all pull students down South for the school-mandated week free from work, but most of this mass exodus is not because of the lure of getting plastered.

In recent years, spring break has become a substantially more hazardous trade for the United States' sunniest cities — the rowdiness, drunkenness and other "unsavory" behavior have made a city like Ft. Lauderdale., Fla., known as one of the first cities to hold wet t-shirt contests, clamp down on things like teeny-tiny bathing-suits and public drunkenness, according to USA Today.

So why do Missouri college kids still continue south down Interstate 55? The promise of alcohol for those under 21 is slim down there. It must be something else.

Chalk it up to history. For thousands of years, humans have migrated south toward the equator any time the world has deigned to make a home area cold. According to National Geographic, "place utility" or the "desirability" of an area based on its environment is the top reason people migrate. In America, it stems back to 40,000 years ago, when Paleolithic Indians migrated from where Russia is today down through America to warmer climates, which offered a place to grow food when temperatures got colder during the ice age.

College students are the newest additions to this type of human migration. The week of warm, sunny temperatures free from regular activities makes the pain of travel worthwhile. It may even help pass the transition time from cold to warm in their home state.

Before deciding that all college students are drunkards (though we'll admit that some are), consider this: Maybe they are just acting on the human impulse to get the heck out of dodge when the going gets cold. And after the winter we've had, who couldn't use some beach time? Give us a break. Spring break is necessary.

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Ellis Smith April 18, 2011 | 2:56 p.m.

Today's University of Missouri System trivia question: Which of the four campuses effectively gets TWO, separate spring breaks?

Answer: Missouri University of Science & Technology (for some years now). To keep the terminology straight they are designated "Spring Recess" and "Spring Break," respectively. The first one covers the annual St. Pat's celebration (104 consecutive celebrations held thus far) and the second is exactly what it's name says it is.

But MS&T students don't get any more total time off than students at the other three campuses do; it's just split up.
Are system administration and the curators cool with that? They most certainly are!

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