The annual UP Spring Day is an event that has been hosted for over 80 years. Spring Day was originally associated with laying the foundation stone of the Old Arts building and was celebrated with a church service. In 1932, Spring Day became known as Commemoration Day as it commemorated the date on which UP became an exclusively Afrikaans institution.
“Tukkies oorskou sy eerste honderd jaar” (Tuks reflects on its first hundred years), a book published in 2008 to commemorate the centenary celebrations of UP and written by Prof. Flip van der Watt, details the early Spring Day traditions at UP. According to the text, in earlier years the Spring Day celebration included not only members of the university but also members of the public. The first Spring Day programme, published in 1923, included a college ball, a play and a church service.
According to Dr Ria van der Merwe, an archivist at UP, Spring Day in the 1930s and ‘40s was focused on Afrikaner traditions. However, in the 1950s and ‘60s the emphasis shifted. Dr van der Merwe explained that religious ceremonies were held in front of the Old Arts building, with a prominent speaker being invited to address the students. In the late ‘70s, Spring Day celebrations at UP began to decline, with students shifting the celebration to Bronkhorstspruit Dam and the focus on liquor beginning to increase. The Spring Day celebrations at Bronkhorstspruit Dam quickly came to a halt as the university distanced itself from the unofficial festivities and the mixing of students with the general public.
In recent years, Spring Day at UP has been on the receiving end of criticism from students and lecturers alike. Last year the official UP Spring Day celebrations, held at the Rag Farm, were incorporated with the SRC inauguration ceremony. The turnout was poor, with most students choosing instead to attend the unofficial Lentedag (Spring Day) party at the Pretoria National Botanical Gardens.
Dr van der Merwe criticised the increased focus on liquor during Spring Day, saying that there is not enough emphasis on things like building spirit at UP. Sharee Comley, a BCom Accounting honours student, disagrees, saying, “I do not agree, because then thats saying that any event with alcohol is not celebrating the “actual event” and is [only] to drink. Alcohol is part of South Africa’s culture, in a way, and just because we are students and there is going to be alcohol, does not mean we are not going to enjoy and appreciate the occasion. Being outside with your mates, having a beer and listening to some awesome music is exactly what I think of when I think of spring”.
This year the official Spring Day is to be held on 23 September, with a holiday the following day and no lectures the day after. Despite no official party being planned, students will at least be guaranteed a relaxing long weekend.
Photo: Shen Scott