Colleges with Weird Traditions or Festivals

Every college has its own culture, and with that, strange traditions that rise out of the curious things that can seemingly only happen on a college campus.

These idiosyncratic festivities make up the overall experience and feeling of college and keep the fabric of a college’s community woven together. Plus, they help balance the stress of school with some highly needed fun and general weirdness.

Here are colleges with some of the weirdest and most fun traditions:

Mount Olive College
Mount Olive College, located in Mount Olive, North Carolina, takes to the streets on the last week of April to celebrate the fermented cucumber more commonly known as the pickle. The Pickle Fest, as it’s called, involves copious amounts of pickle eating (of course), canned food drives, a Tour De Pickle, and other fun rides and activities. Whether you consider it a side dish, a snack, or a salty dessert, the pickle is getting the praise it deserves in Mount Olive. We just feel kind of bad for the olive.

College of William and Mary
In a J.K. Rowling-esque tone, the students of William and Mary take part in an annual Yule Log Ceremony just before they scatter for winter break. It’s the holiday tradition where the entire student body gathers in Wren Courtyard as cressets surrounding the area provide light and warmth for the students. Students listen to live holiday music, speakers share holiday traditions, and the college president gives a requisite reading of ‘Twas the Night Before Finals and How the Grinch Stole Christmas while wearing a Santa costume.

Smith College
Since 1877, the women’s college in Northampton, Massachusetts has taken part in a strange but lovely tradition called Mountain Day. On an unannounced beautiful fall day, Smith College’s president rings the college bells to give students an unexpected but welcomed break from classes so that they can hike up the Mountain and pick apples.

Reed College
Reed College truly honors education with their tradition called Paideia. The Greek word roughly translates to “education”. So about ten days before Reed’s spring semester begins, the campus takes part in Paideia–a time to enjoy education without academic pressures. Members of the college, from students to faculty to alumni, offer non-credit, informal courses and lectures on an array of topics. It’s learning without the pressure! True paideia.

Carleton College
A bust of German poet Friedrich Von Schiller that has flown on Air Force One, been dangled from a helicopter, signed by former President Bill Clinton, and most impressively made a cameo on the Colbert Report, is part of a long-running tradition at Carleton College. Since 1957, the students at Carleton take turns “stealing” and displaying the bust around campus. There are few rules to the game, but if the keeper of the Schiller bust is touched while holding the bust, he or she must immediately relinquish ownership without struggle. If you ever come across the bust, you know you’ve been “Schillered”.

Carleton College is just ripe with weird and great traditions. There’s also the baking cookies at Dacie’s tradition, where Carleton students honor the long-time Carleton employee, Dacie Moses’s, legacy of inviting students to her house for cookies and conversation. Dacie donated the house to  Carleton College on the condition that it be used in continuing her cookies and a chat institution. What a yummy tradition.

Scripps College
The highly ranked progressive women’s college knows how to keep that old school touch alive with their tradition of afternoon tea. Every Wednesday afternoon during the school year, Scripps hold afternoon tea in the beautiful Seal Court. Surrounded by a fountain and mosaic murals, the Scripps students can relax, chat, and even have one-on-one discussions with professors while sipping on some tea.

Oak Hills Christian College
Aptly named The Man and the Lake, the Oak Hills tradition follows that after a classmate’s engagement, the groom-to-be is thrown by his classmates into the campus lake. Friends of the betrothed carry him from his dorm to the dock and ask him two questions: “Do you love her?” and “Is she worth it?”.  Say “yes” to both and your friends will most lovingly toss you into the cold Minnesota lake.

Pomona College
A surf and turf tradition known as Ski-Beach takes the students of Pomona College to opposite paradises in the same day. The Ski-Beach tradition takes a busload of Pomona students wearing serious winter gear up to the slops of Mountain High resort in the AM. By the afternoon, the students get back on the bus and head for the beach for a cookout, some swimming, and good old fashion beach time.

Does your school have a tradition we can add to the list? Leave a comment below to share!

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  1. Laura says:

    Rafinesque Week at Transylvania University!

    Constantine Samuel Rafinesque was a 19th century botanist and author who, for a time, was in innovative teacher at Transylvania. But, committed indiscretions and was summarily fired after seven years. He pronounced a curse on the school that is said to come to fruition every seven years. After his death, he was buried in a Phildelphia Cemetery, but in 1924, Transylvania University secured his remains and return them to the university. The were reinterred in a tomb in Old Morrison, the administration buiding, where he lies today.

    Rafinesque Week is celebrated every year at Transylvania just before Halloween. On the night of Halloween, a raffle is held. The winner gets to spend the night in “Rafinesque’s Tomb” in Old Morrison.

  2. Emily says:

    Berea College also has Mountain Day, to match our commitment to the Appalachian region, on a pre-determined day.

  3. Tsion says:

    Naked Run at University of California, Berkeley

    The Legendary UC Berkeley Naked Run is a tradition at Cal where hundreds of students, male and female, participate in a “run” through the Main Stacks of Doe Library in the nude.

    The event normally occurs during the final days of Reading, Review, and Recitation (RRR) Week, better known as Dead Week, which is the week following the end of formal class instruction and preceding the start of final exams and is intended for students to have free time to prepare for exams.

    The Naked Run is a bi-annual tradition during the Fall and Spring Dead Week.

  4. Erin says:

    Actually, Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, MA has been doing Mountain Day since before Smith – and everyone takes a shuttle to nearby Mount Holyoke, hikes to the top, and then is served ice cream by the college president!

  5. Minta says:

    Bryn Mawr has Lantern Night. One night in October, all the first-years dress in long black robes and gather in the pitch-dark cloisters where they are serenaded in Greek by upperclassmen waving lanterns in their respective class colors. Then the first-years sing in Greek and receive their own lanterns in their class color. The sentiment is that the light of knowledge is being passed from one class to another. It’s a welcoming of the first-years into the community of Bryn Mawr.

    The ceremony is followed by a step sing, which is a tradition among the Seven Sisters colleges.

  6. MSOE says:

    Every year Milwaukee School of Engineering sets aside a week of fun activities to celebrate St. Patrick, the patron saint of engineering. The highlight of the week comes during the St. Patrick’s Proclamation Signing. Students are invited to see if the Fir Darrig (faculty/staff) “snakes” try to prevent the proclamation from being signed by MSOE’s president that allows Saint Patrick to rule the university. As rulers they burst into classrooms to cancel classes that afternoon. “Actors” in this decades-long MSOE tradition include St. Pat’s Court – dressed in colorful garb – faculty and staff, the president(who proclaims the day belongs to St. Pat) and innocent standers-by whose ties are unceremoniously cut off their necks!

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