For fourth-year Elizabeth Bellis, her fondest and most potent memory of the U of C winter festival two years ago was going to the Point, lying in the snow, and doing exercises while saluting the sun. She particularly remembers having the snow soak her clothes, as cameramen videotaping the event could not contain their laughter.
Bellis also remembers unlocking her door every night that week so that the upperclassmen in her house, Dodd-Mead in Burton-Judson, could wake her up for the exercises–or at least they could try.
“You weren’t actually really awake until about when you were walking two blocks down towards the field house,” recalled Bellis, 19, now a residential advisor for Fallers House in Shoreland Hall.
This week, students can gain new memories during this year’s winter festival, held January 13 through 17. The annual event, Kuviasungnerk, or Kuvia for short, derives its name from the Inuit word for happiness; the Inuit are known for living in the colder northern reaches of the continent. Kangeiko, an early morning event featured in the festival, is a special week of training for Japanese martial artists in the winter so they can start the new year with a high level of energy.
Apoorva Khare, a graduate student in mathematics, recalls getting his toes frozen while lying in the snow with 50 other people last year at the Point. He has no reservations, however, about participating again.
“I started to work out at the gym because of Kangeiko,” he said. “It was very revitalizing to wake up that early and get more activity in your day.”
Daily activities start at 6 a.m. in Henry Crown Field House with Kangeiko, where students start with some basic stretching and calisthenics. This is followed by aikido, tai-chi, karate, or basic gym sports like basketball and weightlifting.
Kangeiko is held daily until Friday morning, when students walk to the Point and perform yoga poses that combine into one fluid “salute to the sun,” a ritual that is traditionally supposed to cause the sun to rise.
Those who attend Kangeiko all five mornings get a free T-shirt, and the house with the most participants gets a prize. To enourage more residents of off-campus dorms like Shoreland and Broadview to come out, special buses leave Shoreland at 5 and 5:30 a.m.
Kuvia is sponsored by the Council for University Programming (COUP), which also organizes events like Mardi Gras, Blues ‘n’ Ribs, and Fall Formal.
Will Lin, a third-year in the College and the COUP co-chairman for Kuvia/Kangeiko, believes this is an important winter quarter event. “I think it’s very helpful,” Lin said. “Otherwise, people would just wake up to go to classes. It sets the tone for activity for the rest of the quarter so that people will keep on coming here [to the Henry Crown Field House] to work out.”
Before Kuvia was started, the University used to provide first-year students with an outdoor winter excursion for bonding and staying active during winter. Eventually, unpredictable weather and the growing number of first-year students led to the end of the winter retreat.
“Dean Don Levine decided we should have a winter festival for all students–undergraduates, upperclassmen, graduate students,” recalled Jean Treese, associate dean of students and the co-founder of Kuvia in 1983. “The one part that Dean Levine wanted was Kangeiko; he was doing martial arts and he wanted an early morning portion devoted to training in martial arts as well as other activities to do other than martial arts.”
Treese and Sonia Jacobson, then-director of orientation, ran Kuvia in coordination with the orientation office for six years before turning it over to the College Student Assembly, COUP’s predecessor. Though she has no direct control of Kuvia today, Treese still enjoys participating. She attended the first Kangeiko on Monday and led students in stretches and warm-ups.
“It breaks the monotony of winter quarter,” Treese said. “It pokes fun at winter. It’s to say, ‘We’re going to go out; we’re going to be active, even if it’s winter in Chicago.’”
Afternoon events for Kuvia include a study break at Hutch at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, a broomball game at the skating rink at 9 p.m. on Thursday, and an ice hockey game at the skating rink on Friday at 9 p.m. The Polar Bear Run, a scantily-clad sprint through the quads, will start at Harper Library at 3 p.m. on Friday.
Both Bellis and Khare responded favorably to doing Kuvia again. “Even if they didn’t offer me the T-shirt, I still would go. It got me out of bed before 9 a.m.,” Khare said.