Mr. Jefferson’s university is steeped in tradition – it’s hard not to be when your university has been open since 1819. Individual groups have their own customs that make every student’s experience unique – but these are community-wide events large and small that make this place so special.
1) Guys in Ties, Girls in Pearls.
Coming from a high school with a strong football program, I was….underwhelmed with the UVA football program. But unlike high school, everyone at UVA gets dressed up and looks hella classy for the game. Is it a bit heteronormative? Yes (see History of UVA under “founded by wealthy white men in 1819”). There’s always the orange-out or blue-out option if you’re into that. Win or lose the game, we win sartorially.
2) Founder’s Day.
Jefferson’s birthday is April 13th – so when that day comes around, a lot of secret societies come out to commemorate the man that made this whole place possible. Staying up to watch the Purple Shadows walk down the lawn (although anticlimactic to the maximum* is a thing to do before graduation), reading the list of Tyrants and Rebels posted by the Sons and Daughters of Liberty
3) Trick-or-Treating on the Lawn.
Cute children in the most adorable costumes flouncing in the autumn leaves. And you get to hand out candy to them. Need I say more?
Another event characterized by well-dressed UVA students and alumni, carrying out the wahoo tradition of drinking more than three times its own weight. For me, the beauty of Foxfield comes not from the sloppy intoxication and the jokes about never actually seeing horses, but the determination, rain or shine, from everyone to make their way from the ends of the earth to return to Charlottesville for one glorious day.
5) Lighting of the Lawn holds a special place in my heart for many reasons.
Twinkling lights, beautiful a cappella music, all students on the Lawn at the very heart of university. But more than anything, it was a campaign started in 2001 as a way of bringing students together after the tragedy of 9/11, signal the end of mourning period and giving new light (literally) to the community. It continues as an emblem of hope, happiness, and holiday cheer.
Traditions are great. They provide continuity and common ground for the UVA family that keeps developing with every year. But remember, holding onto tradition does not mean that there is not room for growth.
*That’s what she said (except hopefully not)