Replaying the history of May Festival
Replaying the history of May Festival
  • 차지혜 기자
  • 승인 2008.05.19 00:00
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 “When the festival period approached, I remember some classes being canceled because many students were absent due to preparing and participating in different events,” said Shim Soon-jung (’91, Science Education). However, in contrast to the past, the Daedong Festival nowadays is losing the initial purpose of unifying students into one during the festival period due to relatively low participation of students compared to the past festivals in the past. What were it then that was so special about the past festivals which stimulated high level of participation and grabbed the attention of students even from different universities?

A variety of programs marked the past Daedong Festival over the years. In the 1960s and 70s, the festival was famous for the May Queen Pageant and Couple Carnival. Under the theme of the school motto "Truth, Goodness, and Beauty," the May Queen Pageant first appeared as a main event of Ewha’s 22nd foundation ceremony in 1908, with Mrs. Mary Scranton being the first Queen. Professors attained the honor as the May Queen until 1927 when Dr. Helen Kim became the first student to be nominated as the May Queen. Since then, the pageant turned to a student-oriented event in which students were picked as the Queen. The event was so popular during those days that even the mass media competed with each other to cover it.

Physical beauty was not the only criteria when selecting a May Queen. Inner beauty, such as intelligence and good conduct was also considered important. Thus, candidates had to have GPA scores over 3.0 in addition to good conduct and had to be a Christian.

The Couple Carnival is similar to a prom where students invite their boyfriends and friends to the festival to participate in various events such as couple dodge ball and talent competitions. During the Couple Carnival, a big dinner was also prepared by the school for the 1,500 couples at the Welch-Ryang Auditorium. 

“The Couple Carnival was so popular that male students of other universities were very eager to be invited to the event,” said Byun Mi-sook (’81, Economics). According to Byun, the Couple Carnival was as famous as the Yeongsan tug-of-war in which the school field was so full of students that it was hard to find spaces. Lee Eun-Kui (’79, Educational Technology), reminiscing her university festival, said, “Starting from March, students became busy thinking what to wear and whom to invite as their partners in the carnival. The reason for our meetings (blind dates) was mainly to find our dates.” She added, “Finding the right partner was so important for us because at that time, some of students even got married to their first partners at the carnival.”

Despite the popularity, May Queen Pageant was abolished in 1977 with the criticism that it commercialized the beauty of a woman and idolized a certain individual. The Couple Carnival was also abolished in 1982 over ticket-related problems.

Aside from these two popular events, athletic tournaments, campus fires, and other performances gained a lot of participation during the festival. Faculty and student teams gathered at the gymnasium and played tennis or ping-pong. The campus fire illuminated the finale of the festival with the fire shaped like the Ewha badge. Moreover, plays and dramas for the festival such as Pride & Prejudice and Romeo & Juliet were staged byCollege of Liberal Arts for the entertainment of fellow Ewha students. According to Lee, the reason why many students participated in the May Festival was that it was the biggest event of the year. “Today, there are a lot of diverse events and symposiums where students can participate during the semester. However, at that time, the significance of May Festival was so important that everyone participated in the preparations and waited with fluttering hearts,” said Lee.


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