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Traditions of Mount Holyoke College
Is it Mountain Day yet?

May Day Dancing on Prospect Hill in 1903. Courtesy MHC Archives

Juniors celebrating Play Day with top spinning. Courtesy MHC Archives


Since its formative years as a seminary straight through to the present, the traditions of Mount Holyoke College have made it unique among its peers and cherished by its students. These traditions celebrate nature, learning and the strong bonds that tie Mount Holyoke students to their alma mater. Due to the evolving nature of Mount Holyoke, some original traditions have been lost, some changed, some reborn, and some still persist. New traditions are created and alter throughout time as well. These traditions shape the feel of the college, as well as helping to define the ways students interact with their fellow classmates, the landscape, the faculty and staff, and with the world.

Traditions help to define a school, even as the school defines its traditions. However, traditions can be so much more than just good times with friends and classmates. Because it is understood just how important traditions are, they become valid tools. Mount Holyoke students have, upon occasion, chosen to protest a tradition or alter it in such a way that this act magnifies their voices. Protesting over-regulation of DisOrientation led multiple halls to refuse to participate in order to send a clear message to the administration. Sometimes the protest is broader than just the school's boundaries-- as part of war protests, in 1970, the senior class eschewed the traditional laurel chain in favor of black armbands and peace posters, walking in a silence that, thanks to the altering of this hallowed tradition, said much more than otherwise could be.

Traditions mark the comings and goings or eras. Shifts in the governing of the college trigger the lives and deaths of current tradition. DisOrientation became what it is today because of President Woolley's retirement. Pangynaskeia grew out of President Kennan's induction into office. Watching the traditions we have now being born and old traditions dying, we can better see where we stand now.

Traditions mark the values held in these eras, mark the times in the world around them, help us truly feel this college's varied history. Traditions bring students together and connect all those invested in the college, alumnae, faculty, and students alike, in a bond of an academic family. Mount Holyoke is not just an empty shell; students bring it to life, while traditions give it soul. Traditions connect us with the past and the future, and let us live fully in the present.



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This page was created by Jennifer Loomer '04 and Katherine Underwood '05 in History 283, Fall Semester 2003 and