No. 112 | Traditions

Love is in the Air

For more than 100 years, Valentine's Day has been a big deal at McDonogh, and cards, dances, carnations, and singing telegrams have been at the heart of the celebration.

 “On St. Valentine’s Day the mail boys bring more mail to the school than on any other one day in the year,” said a report in the February 23, 1907, issue of The Week. “All sorts of valentines were received by the boys, from the ugliest comic valentines up to a costly and pretty souvenir.” The story continued, “The boys also sent off a great many valentines to their friends, but there were not half as many sent off as received.”

Thirty-five years later, the January 17, 1941, issue of The Week reported that students were looking forward to a dance in honor of the occasion. “St. Valentine’s Day, which incidentally falls on Friday, February 14th, is to be greeted with a gala affair in the form of a Cotillion Club dance, to be held in the School gymnasium from 9 P. M. till 1 A.M. Tickets will cost seventy-five cents per couple in advance and one dollar at the door.” The article added that music would be “furnished by the School dance orchestra, which has attained great prestige and repute because of its recent work.”

By 1999, the celebration had blossomed into more than a day and became known as Love Week. That year, among the articles in the student newspaper were “Romantic Dave Matthews Band Quotes for Your Valentine” and “Books We Love.” Editors’ most loved reads were: The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald), Into Thin Air (Jon Krakauer), The Bean Trees, (Barbara Kingsolver), Message in A Bottle (Nicholas Sparks),The Giving Tree (Shel Silverstein), A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith), and The Cider House Rules (John lriving).

Eventually, the sophomore class became responsible for planning the Love Week festivities including enduring traditions such as carnation sales and singing telegrams. In 2005, The Week reported, a single carnation was $1, three were $2, and six were $4*. Like the comic Valentines of the past, notes sent along with the carnations also included silly messages such as “Do you have a map? I just keep getting lost in your eyes.” 

The student newspaper also promoted the heart-melting singing telegrams delivered by Women of Note and Gentleman Songsters, saying, “These are a great way to embarrass friends or siblings in school or tell someone how much you care!” The much-loved telegram tradition is still popular, as are songs like “Always Be My Baby,” “One Fine Day,” “My Girl,” and “For the Longest Time,” 

The Valentine’s Dance tradition has also endured. In 2005, the theme was “Cloud Nine,” and in 2024, the theme was “Leap Year.”

* The cost for carnations in 2024 was one for $2, three for $5, and six for $10.

Learn more about McDonogh School's rich history by visiting the archives online.

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