I am a major enthusiast for history of all kinds. I especially love researching and writing about the lesser known parts of history.
Spring is a fascinating time. For some it is a time to take a nice relaxing vacation with your family. For others, a chance to put your liver through the most grueling challenge its ever faced. But why do we take spring vacations, and why do some of us feel that spring break is a time to party as hard as we can?
This article explains the history and customs of spring break in 5 bite-sized snippets.
1. Spring Break Began With the Ancient Greeks and Romans
Believe it or not, spring celebrations began with the ancient Greeks. The Greeks believed the arrival of spring represented the time of fertility and awakening. To celebrate this time of "fertility and awakening" the Greeks held a festival called Anthestreria (Bohn, 2009). It consisted of 3 days of virtually non-stop partying. Activities included men competing in wine drinking competitions, women covering themselves in flowers, singing, dancing, and worshipping Dionysus and Bacchus, the gods of wine and fertility (Thompson, 2013).
Drinking contests, non-stop partying, dancing during spring break. My how things have changed!
2. A Swim Coach From Colgate University Is Credited With Giving Birth to the Modern Day Spring Break
In 1936, Sam Ingram, the swim coach at Colgate University, brought his team to Fort Lauderdale to train during their spring recess. At that time, Fort Lauderdale housed the only Olympic sized swimming pool in Florida. This one time event led the city of Fort Lauderdale to create the College Coaches Swim Forum which eventually attracted hundreds of college swimmers from all over the country (Bohn, 2009). The popularity of the event grew and eventually college students, both swimmers and non-swimmers alike were making the yearly spring pilgrimage with their friends to sunny Fort Lauderdale (Bohn, 2009).
Spring Break Destinations
3. The 1960 Movie "Where the Boys Are" Turned Spring Break Into a Phenomenon
In 1958, Glendon Swarthout, an English professor at Michigan State University overheard some of his students talking about their wild trip to Fort Lauderdale during what was then known as Easter Break. At that time approximately 20,000 students descended on Fort Lauderdale during the spring/Easter vacation every year. They had been doing that since the city started hosting the College Coaches Swim Forum in 1938. Swarthout decided to make the trip to Fort Lauderdale himself to see what all the commotion was about (Kennedy, 2013).
Swarthout turned his experience into a novel about 4 college coeds who travel to Fort Lauderdale during spring vacation. The book, Where the Boys Are, became a smash bestseller and blockbuster movie starring George Hamilton and Connie Francis. Within 1 year of the movie's release, the number of spring travelers to Fort Lauderdale had more than doubled to over 50,000 looking to find the same type of experience that matched what they saw on the silver screen (Kennedy, 2013).
4. German U-Boats Helped Make Florida a Spring Break Powerhouse
One of the reasons college students decided to start flocking to Fort Lauderdale during the spring was partially because of the fear of being taken out by a stealthy German U-Boat. Prior to World War II, wealthy Ivy League students would often travel to Bermuda during their spring vacations. This was before passenger air travel was mainstream so these students took ships to Bermuda. When stories of German U-Boats stalking the Atlantic appeared in the American media, traveling over the ocean became too risky. A new place was needed that one could travel to while keeping their feet firmly planted on the ground. That place turned out to be Fort Lauderdale, Florida (Thompson, 2013).
5. Nagoya, Japan Is the Fastest Growing Spring Break Destination in the World
When one thinks of spring break hot spots they often think of places in Florida, Texas, or Mexico. However the top trending spring break hot spot according the Kayak.com is an entire ocean away in the Land of the Rising Sun, Nagoya, Japan (Kayak.com, 2018).
Japan has grown in popularity over last several years for multiple reasons. These include a weak yen, relaxed visa requirements, and cheaper flights. Once can search and find a flight to Nagoya from Los Angeles for around $500.
Nagoya has an eclectic mix of attractions to pique the interest of any traveler. Toyota makes its headquarters in Nagoya and offers public tours of its factories and R&D center. For those interested in Japan's spiritual history there is the Atsuta-jingu shrine. It was originally built over 1900 years ago and is one of the most important shrines in Japan. For history buffs there is the Nagoya Castle. It dates all the way back to the 17th century and is complete with ancient Japanese weapons, armor, and other artifacts (The Crazy Tourist, 2019).
Spring Break Travel Plans
Bohn, L., (2009). A Brief History of Spring Break. Time. Retrieved from http://content.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1888317,00.html
The Crazy Tourist, (2019). 25 Best Things to Do in Nagoya (Japan). The Crazy Tourist. Retrieved from https://www.thecrazytourist.com/25-best-things-nagoya-japan/
Kayak.com, (2018). Where Travelers from Your State are Going for Spring Break. Kayak.com. Retrieved from https://www.kayak.com/news/where-travelers-from-your-state-are-going-for-spring-break/
Kennedy, P. (2013). Who Made Spring Break? The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/24/magazine/who-made-spring-break.html
Thompson, D. (2013). 2,000 Years of Partying: The Brief History and Economics of Spring Break. The Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/03/2-000-years-of-partying-the-brief-history-and-economics-of-spring-break/274347/
Liz Westwood from UK on March 04, 2019:
I guess in the UK the Easter holidays double as our spring break as the half term school holiday week is a little early in February.