Last night marked my final Lantern Night ceremony as an undergraduate. The second of our four annual traditions, Lantern Night is perhaps our most iconic. During the event, first-years file into the pitch-black Cloisters, sing a couple songs in Greek, and receive their lanterns, their light of knowledge, if you will. My Lantern Night was on Halloween (!), but the following year I participated in the event as a “runner” – sophomores who literally sprint through aisles of first-years to distribute lanterns. This was my first time observing the procession from the roof of the Cloisters. Watching Lantern Night is not unlike a college football marching band – it’s highly synchronized and quite elaborate. While it is our oldest tradition, it’s also one of the harder ones to explain. As I always say on my Admissions tours, no matter how many times I explain it, I can never quite capture the beauty and, for lack of a better term, magic of it all. For me, Lantern Night symbolizes Bryn Mawr’s self-sustaining environment that is governed solely by women, eternally guiding each other towards a common goal of equality and inclusion.
This year marks a lot of last firsts: last first class, last first fall registration, last first day of work, and so on. While I must admit I’ve sort of dreaded senior year – my last year at Bryn Mawr – things have been going so well I’ve hardly had time to dwell on my impending departure.
The first week of classes is just as fun for first years as it is for seniors. I attended Convocation and wore a bat robe (the vintage graduation robes dating back to the ’30s) for the first time since my Lantern Night. Not to mention Friday marks our first tradition of the year – Parade Night! Oh, and a little thing called sitting on the senior steps. Singing Bread & Roses, which is reserved only for seniors, was the most surreal event thus far. I remember the event so vividly from my first step sing — I can recall the exact moment when the senior songsmistress, another resident of my dorm and legend in her own right, called everyone to attention as the seniors began the iconic song. It was in that moment, sitting on the ground, staring up at them and the canopy of still-green leaves above, that I felt so overwhelmed with awe. It was one of many affirming moments that Bryn Mawr was the place for me.
Hell Week is my favorite tradition but my least favorite to explain. As a tour guide, it can be a tricky line to walk. It’s difficult to convey to non-Bryn Mawr folk that this crazy, insane, boisterous week of nonsense isn’t as frightening as the name might suggest — it’s both fun (!) and meaningful. Most students cite their first Hell Week as one of the greatest moments of their undergraduate career. It certainly has its charms, debauchery aside.