A dragon, a phoenix, and an epic battle. What do those three things have in common? They are all part of a pretty bizarre (yet sort of fun-sounding) day at Cornell University in Ithaca.

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Every year in the month of March, students at the Cornell University College of Architecture, Art, and Planning build a massive dragon but not solely for the purpose of fun. No, this particular dragon is designed for battle.

Designed and built by Cornell University AAP students, the sole purpose of the dragon is to battle against a phoenix which is designed and built by the Cornell University College of Engineering students as both groups share a friendly rivalry against each other.

On the day of the showdown, the ginormous dragon is paraded into the Arts Quad (along with outrageously costumed students) where it faces off with the phoenix. Rumor has it that in the early days after the dragon and the phoenix duked it out, the dragon was burned entirely but this tradition no longer exists.

The day that the dragon and the battle wage war is known as Dragon Day and the tradition can trace its roots back 121 years to 1901 when a student by the name of Willard Dickerman Straight suggested that perhaps the University should have a day to celebrate the architecture college. While no one is exactly sure when Dragon Day was adopted, many believe it was sometime in the 1950s because, before that time, the day was celebrated as College of Architecture Day.

Dragon Day has grown and evolved through the years. Rumor says the dragon was completely burned after the showdown between the dragon and the phoenix in the early days. That tradition is no longer carried out.

Until 2013, Dragon Day was held either on St. Patrick’s Day or just after Spring break, whichever came first however, in 2013, Spring break was moved to later in the month and Dragon Day was given its own day which is the day before students leave for Spring break.

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