According to campus legend, classes are cancelled on the day the Ginkgo trees shed their leaves. As a practical matter, some believe that classes should be cancelled when the female tree drops its malodorous fruit. However, that would require cancelling classes for most of the fall term.
Some communities actually do interrupt their fall schedules to celebrate the ginkgo. Many Japanese cities, and at least a couple here in the U.S., have Ginkgo Festivals. Less grand affairs, sometimes referred to as “Ginkgo Day,” are more attentive to the trees. Activities include catching the leaves as they fall or shaking the limbs to harvest the stinky fruit.
Campus rituals that revolve around trees are not uncommon, but according to folklorist Simon Bronner, most take place in the springtime and feature the planting of new trees. One such “Tree Day,” begun at Wellesley in 1877, grew into an elaborate pageant to celebrate the end of the school year (see more at www.wellesleyhistory.com). At Simpson College, Tree Day became a time for the community to clean the grounds (Bronner 103). At BSC, there has been more than one suggestion over the years that a Keeper of the Trees be appointed—a Grand Lorax, perhaps—to sound the alarm when the leaves begin to fall.
It seems entirely appropriate that college communities take time to honor their trees. As Bronner notes, “the pastoral campus with large shady trees and flower beds has historically been the ideal image of campuses because it embodies the peace and contemplation evoked by nature” (102).
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- Bronner, Simon. Piled Higher and Deeper: The Folklore of Campus Life. Little Rock: August House Publishers, 1990.