For a variety of reasons I was contemplating  the tradition of Hobo Days at South Dakota State University.  It has been going on since 1912, apparently, and involves festivities in conjunction with Homecoming.  There are parades and contests, such as the six month competitions for beard growing (for the men) and leg-hair growing (for the women), a parade featuring a 1912 Ford, and people dressed up like Hobos (mainly the men) and “Hippie Chicks” (mainly the women). The women used to dress up like “Indian Maidens”.  That was eventually deemed offensive, so the women were recast as Hippies.  I wonder how former Hippie women feel about it?

I believe that university staff look on the tradition with mixed feelings. It certainly promotes school spirit and cohesiveness. It is also a time of heavy drinking and all the problems that brings, and also glorifies homelessness.

I think I am pretty anti-tradition when it comes to festivities like Hobo Days, but I must admit changes to my comforting and familiar  Lutheran liturgy are upsetting.  Change is hard. Finding new traditions isn’t easy.

What traditions do you cling to? What traditions would you like to see end? What new traditions would you like to see?

33 thoughts on “Traditions?”

  1. The administrators at my college, Grinnell, wanted to believe the school was an American version of the famous colleges in Oxford. Some of the school’s architecture was vaguely British, but what was most appealing to our leaders was the image of earnest scholars living simply while they pursued an education.

    To emphasize this image, once a year just before Christmas the college threw a Boar’s Head Feast. Our dining hall was darkened, and waiters dressed in medieval English costumes brought in a tray bearing the slain boar (actually a plaster cast of a dead pig) while singing old hymns. We’d have a fancy meal lit only by the weak light of flickering candles.

    The male students handled this as they handle all pretentious ceremonies: they got roaring drunk. With the lights out nobody could see what anyone was doing, so guys left the table to mess with fellows at adjoining tables who lived in different dorms. Guys drank from flasks they’d smuggled in and then peed in the cups of and tried to trick each other into drinking this “cider.” Food fights were common.

    The cycle was classic. The Boar’s Head Feast my first year was a mess. The next year’s Feast was boozier and louder. The celebration for my last year was a boozy riot complete with a food fight, and the shocked administrators threatened to stop the tradition altogether.

    Which they finally did, but not until more drunken riots finally proved how foolish it can be to graft a tradition from another place and another time on modern male students. Ultimately, this was educational. I sure learned how traditions can be joyous when authentic but miserable when they are fraudulent.

    Liked by 4 people

        1. One day here at the college, the State of MN deemed the Trail Baboon a dangerous website and wouldn’t let me access it.
          I filed a report saying we were all really nice people (Sure- that’s what they all say!) and to please allow access again. To my surprise, someone actually responded the next day saying they didn’t know why it was blocked because it wasn’t any more. They said WordPress has issues… And sometimes if one wordpress site reports bad, they all get reported bad.
          Whew! Glad it wasn’t Steve’s fault it got shut down… 😉

          Liked by 3 people

      1. Just remembered another detail from that last Boar’s Head Feast. The men had their own dining hall, a tall hall with Medieval styling. We had to dine there. There were about ten men’s dormitories, and that was how dining was organized. We dined at big tables where everyone was from the same dorm (which provided some cover for misbehavior). Waiters in costume served the tables, bringing food from the kitchen on big trays. In that especially bad feast some guys stole waiter’s outfits and then raided the kitchen, serving extra food to their own tables. Not a particularly big crime, but just another breach of decorum.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Was attendance at the Boar’s Head Feast compulsory? How was administration able to persuade the students to go along with their fantasy? That sort of imposed ritual is perhaps more common at private colleges. It compares to nothing in my experience at the U of M.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Good question, Bill. The answer is yes, attendance was compulsory. Or it was for students who wanted to eat. We had one food service and one dining location. The food service went along with the whole Boar’s Head pageantry. There was nowhere else to dine unless someone wanted to hike half an hour into downtown Grinnell and pay for a meal out of pocket.

        That’s not how colleges are run now. In addition to common eating areas most student unions have a cafeteria where kids can buy pizzas or whatever. Students have far more choice now than was true in the early 1960s.


  2. Kelly’s family had a tradition of Memorial Day BBQ’s at her aunt and uncles house. Lots of cousins and it was always fun.
    But people died and families change and people didn’t seem to be able to keep it going which is sad.
    Christmas Eve at another Aunt and Uncle of hers. I always always enjoyed those. But same thing. A death or two, A divorce, other commitments and Christmas eve is pretty quiet these days.

    A newer tradition is the food provided to actors and crew during tech rehearsals at a local theater. It’s just a very very nice touch. They’re certainly not required to do it, but as one person says, “people are happier when they’re fed”. Simple as that. And it’s not just pop, chips and donuts.
    Fruits, bagels, roasted chicken, pasta salad, Greek salads… I don’t go hungry those weekends.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Having attended the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, I know they have some tradition surrounding the Little Brown Jug which I never really understood. I’m not a sentimental person nor really into traditions. I certainly appreciate traditions, but I’m not attached to them. Some holiday traditions I really enjoy, like the White Elephant Gift exchange our family does when we get together for Christmas, which is usually full of high jinks, hilarity and chaos.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. all those drunken traditions seem like so much fun but in hindsight the blurred brain plays tricks
    and the mob rule is hard to contain
    in dakota it almost goes unnoticed but if you look carefully you can spot the folks in talking about
    their hair is on fire


  5. My long post (sorry about that!) spoke against phony traditions. Obviously, there are good traditions. My erstwife’s family had a strong sense of fun and a willingness to create new traditions to celebrate almost any kind of occasion.

    I just thought of one I haven’t remembered in decades. Anyone who came to Christmas would be given a bobblehead doll that stood on the fireplace mantel as a sort of acknowledgement that this newcomer was now part of a family that loved to celebrate.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Reminds me that Husband’s father had made each grandchild a “bunny cart” pull toy – he’d offset the back wheels (instead of axel in center) so that it appeared to “hop” when pulled. My rabbit collection was at it’s zenith right when I joined the family, and he made me a miniature one – I felt honored.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Tradition I cling to – hauling out Christmas decorations and decorating the house for myself! Hardly anyone else sees it besides Husband, and he wouldn’t know whether I decorated or not.

    Tradition I’d like to see end – the sending of decorated address labels, greeting cards, and calendars to anyone who has once donated to your cause, as a come-on for more donations – from Amnesty International to National Wildlife. I now boycott any organization that does this…

    New tradition – Today we joined a couple we know in their yard, to “shake the apple trees” – help them pick the last of the apples on their 3 trees. Luckily it was a little warmer day with some sun, and they had us stay for lunch. Then we split all the apples between us, and we have a lot of juicing to do! May it become an annual event. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. BiR: you’re exactly right. I have never been able to donate much, but I have a friend for whom that was virtually a lifestyle. She and her husband were poor by most measures, but they spent a large share of what they had on charitable donations.

      And she got POUNDED with requests for more. It was so obvious: the more she gave, the more the charities hounded her. I used to shake my head and say “no good deed” (in the world of charitable giving) goes unpunished.”

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I think I’ve talked about a lot of the Traditions that why YA and I have established over the years. But I realized a while back that I would make myself crazy if I tried to keep us adhering to traditions that we had grown out of.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. In my experience, traditions are wonderful so long as everyone participating isn’t doing it out of obligation. I’ve written about my Christmas Eve tradition that evolved out of sheer need for companionship on that evening. It lasted a good many years, twenty-five or so, but eventually grew to be an event that a lot of us dreaded, including the host, and that killed it. It was absolutely a life-saver, joyous, and memorable, while it lasted, and there were no regrets when it died.

    Liked by 1 person

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