Yale is a mysterious place. From whispers of society parties to screams from the Bass Naked Run, there always seems to be some campus tradition that’s equal parts confusing and intriguing.
Hi! My name is Eliza, and I’m a sophomore in Pierson College studying comparative literature. I’m one of many Yale students with puzzling backgrounds. I’m trained as a butcher, and I love tofu. I’m Jewish, and my mom’s last name is Church. I’m American, and I went to an international school for 10 years. I quote Proust just as much as I quote Season 8 of Love Island.
I know all too well that there’s a lot more to people, places and things than meets the eye. And that’s why I love Yale. You can never fully understand everything going on here, but you can try! And that’s what Enigma, this column, is all about — digging deeper into these pressing questions and providing much needed answers.
To most, February is just another month. By now everyone has abandoned their New Year’s resolutions — no more Dry January or twice-weekly trips to Payne Whitney. Winter drags on. Social life dims with early sunsets. The staying-in epidemic strikes, and seasonal depression spikes. Valentine’s Day aside, I’d wager that most college students are in social hibernation mode.
For seniors at Yale, February is the month. Move over syllabus week and Spring Break. It’s time to talk Feb Club, an enigmatic upperclassmen tradition. Short for the February Club, a 1981 issue of the Yale Daily News describes this “informal social group” as “committed to adding life to the traditionally unpopular month by throwing 28 parties in a row.” If you attend every single pop-up party, you become known as an All-Star. And because of the leap year, the 2024 graduating class gets an extra special 29th day to celebrate.
Typically, the organizers and attendees are seniors. It’s their last hurrah as people with one foot in the job market and one still stuck to the floor of a frat basement. The tradition is so well-loved that in 2008, the Yale Alumni Association founded Feb Club Emeritus to organize events across the country and the world so that former students could continue to gather in February.
You might be thinking, “Eliza! Aren’t you a sophomore? How are you going to pull this one off?” At first, I wasn’t quite sure either. Enter Josie Reich ’26, the associate beat reporter for Admissions, Financial Aid & Alumni at the News, and a dear friend of mine. She just so happens to be the lead singer of a new band called Pretty Please. And they just happen to be in the live music lineup kicking off the first night of Feb Club.
On Feb. 1, I got a text that Pretty Please was gearing up for their set. I put on my maroon leather jacket, pocketed an umbrella and set out on my journey to the Luther House. When I arrived, Josie popped out with a smile, looking all parts rockstar in her silver sparkly tights and tight black eyeliner.
She ushered me into the house, telling me that another new band, Public Discourse, was on. It was hard to see over all the nodding heads, so I watched the shadows on the wall: an electric guitar and its tuning pegs, a drumstick slapping the cymbals.
I settled onto the arm of a shabby gray couch, and sang along to a cover of “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire — I guess there are no good songs about February. “Who here is a 23 plus 1?” caused a spasm of hand waves and a chorus of boos. I cheered along so as to not blow my cover.
As the bands transitioned, I weaved my way to the front as Pretty Please got ready to perform. “Murder on the Dancefloor” by Sophie Ellis-Bextor got all the Saltburn fans moving. “505” by the Arctic Monkeys inspired an indie-rock mass mosh pit. Yale’s best — and only — girl band held the audience captive for the entire set.
The crowd, bathed in coral limelight, seemed distinctly carefree. The dance floor was just one big circle of hand-holds and arms-around-shoulders. Actually, it was the most comfortable and joyful I’d ever seen Yale students at a social event — especially at this dreary time of year. And I know why.
Here’s my overly simplified claim: parties usually attract a cast of irritating characters. ‘The flirt’ will talk to anyone, often resulting in an awkwardly placed dance floor makeout. ‘The first time drinker’ will bump into everyone and make a mess. ‘The photographer’ will be filming the festivities all night and taking photos in the corner instead of enjoying the moment.
All three archetypes were notably absent. And so were underclassmen. Coincidence? Definitely not. I pointed this out to Josie, who said, “seniors have already made their mistakes.” And she’s right. They aren’t first-years with something to prove. In my notes app, I wrote: “No expectations, no beer breath, just a hell of a time.”
After a quick lap around the house, something else became clear: everyone here knows each other. When I passed the bathroom line, I heard someone say, “I remember you from my chem section!” And while I was on the balcony, I witnessed two girls spot each other from across the backyard, then run to each other’s warm embrace.
In a sea of familiar faces and long-time-no-sees, I realized that my presence here was premature. I have no desire to unravel this enigma anymore. And neither should you, if you’re not a senior.
The reason Feb Club is such a blast, and has remained a tradition for so long, is precisely because it comes at the tail end of your college experience. After an exhaustive, four year long period of socialization, there’s no point in doing anything else exploratory and/or stupid. Because Yale itself is no longer an enigma. You’re an integrated member of a community that just wants to celebrate one another.
There will, of course, be 28 more Feb Club parties hosted at different campus hotspots, whether they be sports houses or society residences. There will certainly be more interesting themes to follow as the month progresses; I think we can safely guess what they’re doing for Feb. 14.
But I’ve decided I will not be in attendance. For now, February will just be a month, like any other. But two years from now? You will definitely find me in the center of the action surrounded by my friends, jamming to great live music and dancing like nobody else is watching.