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The Importance of Tradition

When I was in college, I took a wonderful folklore class. Our long-term project was to write three papers on a piece of folklore that affected our lives, or that we felt particularly drawn to. I wrote mine about a long-running boarding school tradition that takes place this week.

The traditions surrounding the event have remained largely unchanged for more than a century–the songs, uniforms, and schedule are all essentially the same. It’s fascinating to me to consider that, with a world so different than the world at present, this has remained the same.

I value tradition, and always have. Of course innovation is necessary, but there is something very comforting and settling about tradition. As someone who grew up with a lot of uncertainty in my life–my father in the military, my mother with a degenerative disease–traditions made unfamiliar places feel like home–or at least comfortable.

I feel very strongly about my school, as I’ve mentioned, and at this time of year I find myself singing our traditional songs, wearing my team’s colors, and feeling homesick. I lived in the same room for more than half of my time at school, so that’s what I picture when I remember school–sitting in the makeshift windowseat my roommate and I created, peering out at the courtyard below, seeing girls walk to class in their team colors, hearing snatches of songs drifting up to our open window.

I had lunch last week with two wonderful friends who also attended my school, though not at the same time–we are members of the same book club, and their friendship is so meaningful to me. We spent a great deal of time discussing the different traditions–what was in place when they were at school, what was there when I was, the songs we sang and the cheers we shouted. It was fascinating to see the evolution of these traditions, to know when things began and when, in a few cases, they ended. But so much has remained the same, despite the decades-long gap between our tenures there.

It’s comforting to know that despite COVID and everything else, this particular tradition will carry on. That two girls are there, in my old room, seeing the same sights and hearing the same songs, just as they will a hundred years from now.

2 thoughts on “The Importance of Tradition

  1. Lovely blog, as always! While my boarding school was very arty and short on tradition, it was a very beloved and special place (Bucks County, PA). Will went to board at a boys school in Bryn Athyn, PA with a sister school next door. The traditions, like your school, span generations. It was a very happy time for us both!

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