Meet Me at the Weeks Bridge

The lovely Weeks Footbridge that crosses the Charles between the main campus of Harvard and the business school is the site of festive occasions throughout the year.

May Day Celebration

Every year on May Day, Harvard students in formal dress many of them residents of Lowell House leave campus and gather with other students and Cambridge residents at Weeks Bridge in honor of the arrival of spring, lining both sides of a pathway along the Charles River to meet and greet other celebrants with hand shaking and the words “Merry May” as the participants follow the Maypole. The Celebrants sing and dance, toasting with cider and wine while often eating strawberries. The festivities can serve to bring students and Cambridge residents together.

The first of May has been a day of celebration worldwide for many reasons, starting in pagan times to celebrate the energy of spring with warmer days ahead and in more recent years to promote the international labor movement. People in Germanic countries sometimes dance around the Maypole on special occasions.

The early hour of the May Day event in Cambridge does deter me, but looking forward to longer days is something to celebrate!

 Dragon Boat Festival

The first weekend in June* we visited the annual Dragon Boat Festival on the Charles River – long fiberglass boats with dragon heads and tails – gliding along the river usually propelled by 10 to 22 paddlers facing the bow where the drummer or caller stands while a participant steers from the back. The Weeks footbridge was a good place for viewing the event which includes activities in the various white tents along the river. – yo-yo performances, music, Lion dances, face painting, and crafts. Traditional foods were available for sampling.

These races began over 2,000 years ago to commemorate political leader and poet Qu Yuan who committed suicide by drowning after he had been removed from the government – his final act a demonstration against the political corruption of the time. According to one version of the legend, the people beat their drums, used their paddles to protect their poet leader, and threw rice into the water to save him from being eaten by fish, and so began the practice of including sticky rice dumplings wrapped in leaves during the Dragon Boat celebration.

The Chinese Dragon Boat Festival now takes place in other countries around the world, and the Boston festival that started here in 1979 draws participants from the rest of New England and New York and along the coast to Florida, as well as Canada, making it the largest dragon boat race in this country. All may participate regardless of ability or experience.

*This is the fifth day of the fifth moon on the lunar calendar.

Tango by Moonlight

For almost twenty years, the Boston Tango Society has been offering to the public free demos and impromptu dance lessons once a month on the Weeks Bridge by the light of a full or almost full moon reflected on the waters of the Charles, usually beginning in late May and continuing each month until early October. See a brief demo of the Argentinian tango or take a free impromptu 15-minute lesson provided by the Tango Society. Dance in this special setting or just watch and listen to the music sometimes as late as 11:00.


International Dragon Boat Federation

Harvard Gazette May 3, 2017

Yelp by Sebastion Reyes Boston Discovery Guide “Boston Chinese Dragon Boat Festival,” 2017.



Tags: , , , , , ,

About the Author