Lantern Night

Lantern Night is the most serious tradition at Bryn Mawr, and the second-most difficult to manage for the mistresses, May Day being the first. During Lantern Night, the frosh are given lanterns from the upperclasswomen. The lanterns are in the frosh class color, or the McBride color of purple. During this intricate ceremony, the sophomores hand out the lanterns while the juniors and seniors and the class songsmistresses lead the singing by swinging their lanterns. The whole thing happens at night, and everyone is dressed in black, making this the most visually impressive tradition.

Class colors are also dealt with thoroughly during Lantern Night. There are four traditional class colors, plus purple for McBride students. The incoming frosh will receive the class color of the previous year's departing senior class. I graduated in 1999 as a member of the green senior class. Therefore, the incoming frosh for the next school year (2003) would also receive green lanterns as their class color. The colors are dark blue, green, light blue, and red. McBrides are always purple, except that some may elect to mix the panes of their lantern with their corresponding graduating class color. I received email from Anika Torruella '98, who reminded me of the origin of the colors. Dark blue, light blue, red, and green were chosen as representatives of the four elements: water, air, fire and earth. The McBride purple lantern color was chosen to represent the human spirit.

First, the frosh file into the darkened cloisters and line up at one end. Then, the upperclasswomen begin to sing "Pallas Athena" in Greek (yes, I said Greek) while the sophomores distribute the lanterns. The upperclasswomen lead the singing by the songsmistresses, who are located in the center of the cloisters on the fountain, and the juniors and seniors who stand in the arches surrounding the cloisters. Once all the lanterns have been passed out, the frosh pick up their lanterns for the first time. This can get tricky, because you are not supposed to look at your lantern until it is in your hand. The superstition is that, if you do, you won't graduate. Basically, all it results in is a lot of cursing and fumbling around and grabbing the wrong lantern, but it seems to have worked pretty well so far, so I don't see it changing. After the lanterns are all in hand, the songsmistresses lead again, and the frosh sing "Sophias," the college hymn, also in Greek. All of it is in the dark, so the hardest part is memorizing the song! Once the frosh sing it through once, the upperclasswomen join in and the song is repeated as the frosh file out of the cloisters. I have a few pictures from the ceremony, even though picture-taking is strictly forbidden by guests. The whole thing is really hard to understand, but perhaps a diagram will help.

The sentiment behind Lantern Night is that the light of knowledge is being passed from one class to the other. It is a welcoming of the frosh into the academic community of Bryn Mawr. The tradition concludes with a Step Sing.

Lantern Night Pics | Next Tradition: Hell Week
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