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Mountain Day
Oh Mount Holyoke, We pay thee devotion

 


Students enjoying Mountain Day in 1903 courtesy MHC Archives

 
The view from Mount Skinner, Mountain Day, 1955 courtesy MHC Archives
 
 
 

The Oldest Tradition Mountain Day, Mount Holyoke Colleges oldest tradition, has been in existence since 1838, the year after the Seminary's founding. It may have been created in the spirit of Mary Lyon's mandate that every student should walk at least one mile every day, and certainly could not have occurred without her blessing. Mountain Day originally occurred in June, but in 1893 it was moved to "some beautiful day in October". The actual date of Mountain Day is kept secret until the moment when, in early morning, the chapel bells ring to announce all classes are canceled. Students spend the day climbing nearby mountains, particularly Mount Holyoke (now called Mt. Skinner) for exercise and to appreciate the natural beauty of the pastoral landscape which surrounds them. In 1895, Henrietta Hooker said:

  "Mountain day" is in autumn, when the foliage is at its best, and the fringed gentians are at home. Then each student betakes her to her favorite mountain shrine, whether of Holyoke or Nonotuck, both within a radius of four miles, as fancy or companionship may dictate; and all along the way, in the going and coming of the merry groups, rings out through woodland and vale the musical call:
 
Throughout it's history, Mountain Day was suspended only for the Civil War and the destruction of the Seminary in 1896. During World Wars, students spent the day helping local farmers as a patriotic duty. Today, Mountain Day continues to be a beloved tradition, and every autumn the refrain "Is it Mountain Day yet?" is heard across campus. Because of its longevity and its popularity, it has earned itself an honored position among Mount Holyoke traditions, and will no doubt continue for many years.

 

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This page was created by Jennifer Loomer '04 and Katherine Underwood '05 in History 283, Fall Semester 2003
jmloomer@mtholyoke.edu and kaunderw@mtholyoke.edu