Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Importance of Traditions

I am someone who believes strongly in the importance of traditions. At the age of 14, I left home and headed for Blair Academy. Blair is a boarding school in northwest New Jersey, and would be my home for the next 3 years. 

My older brother was already at Blair, and I had enviously listened to his stories for the past two years. One of the stories that intrigued me the most was that of Peddie Day. He talked about banners, skits, beenies, the arch, a bonfire, and football. When I was applying to schools, I applied to both Blair AND Peddie, and I interviewed at both schools during Peddie Week (or Blair Week, as they called it at Peddie). It was funny to me to be at Blair, where there were signs that said GO BUCS, or KILL PEDDIE, and then to see signs at Peddie that said BEAT BLAIR! 

In the end, obviously, I decided to go to Blair, where I would experience the whole thing that Fall. Basically, the Senior class makes many of the rules during Peddie Week. Two of the oldest traditions are that all underclassmen and new faculty would wear beenies the entire week. A fellow classmate recently found his in a box from his Blair Days (pictured below). The other major tradition was that only seniors were allowed to walk through the arch, a beautiful stone arch, under which students really had to go in order to get anywhere. At night, the arch was defended by Senior and Post-Grad boys, while underclassmen tried to get by them. It was all in good fun.

It was a week in which professors tried their hardest to keep us focused on our studies, and our coaches had to remind us that we would be playing Peddie in all Fall sports that Saturday. I played field hockey, although not terribly well.

On Friday night, there was a pep rally, and a bonfire that took a month to complete. Seniors stayed up at night to make sure students from Peddie didn't try to light it up during the week. All the teams did skits at the pep rally, I can still rember the field hockey teams' version of "Be True to Your School." 

After the pep rally, the entire school went out for the bonfire. This wasn't just any bonfire-it was huge, and generally burned for at least a day. Part of the tradition of Blair, is that all Seniors are given a torch, and they process together, each throwing their torch, and likely thinking about how they'd made it to senior year. It was a sight to see.

I believe that curfew was later that night, and the entire school, faculty, and alums enjoyed the festivities. There was hot chocolate and music. Whenever I head the song "Dream On" by Aerosmith, I am immediately taken back to the bonfire from my senior year. Many underclassmen burned their beenies, which is likely what happened to mine.

The next day, Blair and Peddie compete in all Fall sports, with the location changing each year. All games are over in time for everyone to watch the football game. The winning team gets a cup to keep for the year, named the Kelly-Potter Cup after the two Headmasters.

Pictured-Mr. Kelly in his letterman's jacket

Peddie Day, and it's traditions are what make Blair Academy a school that its students adore. You will remember it for the rest of your life. When you get together with friends later in life, Peddie Day will likely be a topic. I personally believe that it is this type of tradition that keeps alums very much engaged in a school.

As an educator, I have looked for these types of traditions at different prep schools, and I have failed. One girls' boarding school came close, with traditions that were meaningful and fun , but I have yet to find a tradition as deeply rooted as those at Blair. It is part of what makes Blair a community, and many of us believe strongly in that sense of community.

As parents, my husband and I hope that our boys will choose to attend Blair. M. didn't attend, but he loves Blair, and sees how important it is to me. We will never force them, but we will expose them to Blair much more as they get older. Perhaps starting a tradition of our own.

A closing note- this past weekend was Peddie Day, and Blair brought home the cup for the fourth year in a row. Woo Hoo!

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