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The Dartmouth
June 21, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Up to Snow Good: The History of the Annual Snowball Fight

One writer investigates the history of the annual Dartmouth snowball fight on the Green.


“Snow! There's snow! There's lots of snow!

Lots and lots of snow to throw!

Come join before spring alights,

In a great big giant snowball fight.

Come and throw some snow with me,

You will like it, you will see!”

—Dr. Seuss

On Sunday, Jan. 7, at 11:02 p.m., all undergraduates received an email from an account under the name Theodore Geisel, Class of 1925, beckoning them to the Green for a snowball fight at midnight. This email, now an annual tradition, occurs after the first snow of winter term each year. Students flock to the Green, some armed with homemade shields, snow boots and thick coats, while others arrive only donning their pajamas. When the clock strikes midnight, the Green erupts with snowballs and tackles, and after about an hour, it seems as if there’s hardly any snow left to throw. 

This year’s email came later than usual — the previous year, the email arrived in students’ inboxes at 4:19 p.m., leaving students with ample time to mentally, physically and emotionally prepare for the night ahead. The late email this year led to some students missing the memo entirely.

“I actually missed it this year … I was already asleep by the time I got it,” said Mayada Giha ’26

The email came so late into the night that Jack Heaphy ’24 took it upon himself to write his own parody email, which was quickly disseminated from the original 53 people he CC’d to the rest of the school. He wrote in Seuss-style verse,

“All my empty inbox has to say, 

Is that we don't need Geisel, he's dead anyway.”

The holder of Dr. Seuss’ email address remains a mystery. Some students, like Aden Meisel ’27, speculate it could be a senior society task, while others, like Jack Stark ’26 joke it is the spirit of Geisel himself. 

Regardless of the email’s origins, once it’s sent out, the student body responds with a massive congregation on the Green at midnight.

The first reported mention of the mysterious Dr. Seuss email came in 2011, in an article by The Dartmouth Review. No one knows exactly how Geisel can communicate from beyond the grave, but the tradition is appreciated by Dartmouth students. 

“I like it a lot,” Stark said. “This dead guy is sending us an email to go have a fun snowball fight. I think it’s pretty cool.”

The annual snowball fight, prompted by email or not, did not formally become a tradition until about three decades ago. While impromptu snow skirmishes have existed since the beginning of the college in 1769, the yearly fight could have begun as early as 1993, as The Dartmouth reported a casual snowball fight on the first snow of winter. The Dartmouth first mentioned an organized, class-wide snowball fight in 1998, although it notes that the fight was only between first-year students. Articles from 1999 and 2000 also describe it as the “Freshman Snowball Fight,” but in years to come the fight seemed to be expanding to include the entire school. A 2003 article from The Dartmouth mentions that the fight now included all class years, with a group of first-years holding the honor of firing the initial shots.  

While one big, mostly-friendly fight is tradition today, earlier snowball fighting at Dartmouth has a somewhat aggressive history. In 1952, students caught a series of unfortunate bystanders in the crossfire of their snowball fights, including one baby. This incident led the town of Hanover to enact Article IX, Section 7, of the By-Laws and Regulations of the Precinct of Hanover, N.H., which declared that “no person shall throw any stones, bricks, snowballs or dirt in any street or sidewalk in the Precinct.” This by-law also assigned a fine of $20 to any perpetrators, which would equate to about $230 in today’s currency.

Just as it was in the 30s and 50s, unfortunate accidents still exist; while windows and babies are mostly spared, injuries on the night of the first snowball fight are rampant. 

“Last year I was walking across the Green and I saw this girl running, and she slipped and her face hit the concrete,” Giha said. “Her whole friend group laughed, picked her up, and then she kept running.”

Stark also experienced his own snowball-related injury.

“Last winter I got hit in the face with a piece of ice,” he said. “It was right on my eye, and I couldn’t see for the next couple of hours.”

Despite the chill of the night and snowballs to the face, students enjoyed themselves in the freshly fallen powder.

“I loved it … we were out there for 2 hours and it felt like 10 minutes,” Kate Ryan ’27 said.

The snowball fight has become a beloved tradition and will be enjoyed by students for years to come, as long as Dr. Seuss emails on the first snow of winter term. And if the email comes late, students have shown they’ll step up and show out anyway.