Traditions (Traditions!) during the holidays and at Wekeela

Around the holidays, family traditions are an important part of our self identity and our family dynamics. Thinking about what are the traditions in your family that impact you can really put into perspective the importance of the people in your life. Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Boxing Day are all in the month of December and remind us of what traditions are important to our families. Similar to camp, these traditions can be different from family to family, or camp to camp, but they ultimately bring us to a grounded place where we can have a mutual respect for one another. Camp is a place where traditions (TRADITIONS) always surprise a first time camper or staff member, but in just a few short days, those traditions can feel like a valuable ritual that has been part of your life forever.

However, have you ever wondered where your traditions come from? With holiday traditions, many are passed down by religion or family. At camp, it is a fun experience to point out the origins of some of our fun traditions. For this, we are focusing primarily on the traditions that our campers and staff would engage in daily or are specific to the camp experience, not certain evening activities that are popular and are done every summer. Some of our favorite Wekeela traditions include:

  • Around the Rock
    • What is it: When entering the Council Ring for lineups, campfires, etc. campers and staff must walk to the left of the rock, also known as going around the Rock to enter the Council Ring. If you don’t, you will hear many shouts to go Around the Rock! 
    • Where does it come from: The origin of this tradition is unknown to me as I write this, but if there is a Wekeela Alumni out there who knows, please enlighten me. It is very random, and was actually the theme of our 2020 Color War break, where we buried hidden treasure near the rock and explained to the campers that the “pirates of Wekeela” wanted campers and staff to avoid the buried treasure – or go around the rock.
  • Dining Hall: no hats, moment of silence, standing before moment of silence 
    • What is it: There are several traditions in the dining hall at Wekeela. The traditions are rooted to be fun, but come from a respectful military tradition. When a camper or staff member wears a hat in the dining hall, they have to sing to return it. We also have a moment of silence and stand before the meals begin. 
    • Where does it come from: These traditions are actually rooted in medieval times and military background, where knights or army officers would remove their helmets to identify themselves. Removing one’s hat is also a customary way of introducing yourself and showing respect. Although this is not why we do this at Wekeela, it is a tradition that remains to this day. To return your hat, one must sing in front of the crowd. Similarly, standing before the meal and moment of silence are ways for the bunk, and the entirety of camp as a whole, to have a moment of togetherness, gratitude, and silence to reflect on their day before the meal begins. This is a non-denominational moment of silence before the cheers and laughter in the dining hall erupts. 
  • Candy Man
    • What is it: Very simply, Candy Man is Ephram’s unorthodox way to pass candy around camp. 
    • Where does it come from: One of his favorite films is Willy Wonka and the Chocolate factory. The inspiration to bring joy and laughter, with a little bit of chaos, to campers is a highlight of the summer. The pure excitement and joy of seeing campers run around chasing a golf cart full of candy is a sight to see. 
  • Jar of wishes
    • What is it: A Mason jar filled with the ashes of the final campfire. The ashes include the remnants of the “wishes” campers and staff placed in the final campfire.
    • Where does it come from: a camper in the 90’s came up with the idea to collect the ashes and return them to the pit at the start of a new summer season. We start each camping season by adding the ashes from last year’s final campfire as a way to bring each summer full circle.
  • Burying the hatchets
    • What is it: The final Color War activity. A ceremony where each Color War officer lays down their hatchet and buries it in the Wekeela beachfront.
    • Where does it come from: The phrase ‘bury the hatchet’ comes from a ceremony performed by Native American tribes when previously warring tribes declared peace. When two tribes decided to settle their differences and live in harmony, the chief of each tribe buried a war hatchet in the ground to signify their agreement. Did you know …the first Burying the Hatchet Ceremony (also known as the Governor’s Farm Ceremony) happened in Nova Scotia on June 25, 1761.
  • Burning of the Numerals
    • What is it: Annual end of season tradition to close out the summer. 
    • Where does it come from: Origin at Wekeela unknown, but the beauty of watching the burning numbers as we all hold candles and stand in a circle to close out the summer, is a powerful moment and sacred tradition on the last night of camp.
  • Tattoo
    • What is it: Not only the bugle call to which the Sophomores return to their bunks, but a time at the end of each day for all Wekeela Pioneers to pause and reflect on the passing day.
    • Where does it come from: In the United States Army, the tattoo signals that all light in squad rooms be extinguished and that all loud talking and other disturbances be discontinued within 15 minutes, at which time “Taps” should follow. At 28 bars long “Tattoo” is recognized as the longest bugle call in the repertoire of the United States Army.
  • Taps: 
    • What is it: The last bugle heard at the conclusion of the Wekeela night. Similar to Tattoo, campers and staff will pause and take a moment before the day ends. 
    • Where does it come from: The powerful sound of a bugler playing “Taps” is a call to remember those who gave their lives in the service of the United States. The final bugle call is a sign of respect and a tribute to those known and unknown.
  • Rituals:  
    • What is it: A bedtime tradition. Counselors create and implement bedtime traditions for their bunks.   
    • Where does it come from: Read our blog on Rituals from last Spring, rituals is an important part of the Camp Wekeela culture.

Overall, this time of year reminds us of the powerful impact that camp and its traditions can have on a child’s growth and development. We are grateful that our camp community allows our campers and staff to have fun, make friends, memories, and experiences that teach them to grow.  This holiday season, reflect on your important family traditions, discuss how they influence you, and always be grateful for them!

Happy Holidays from Camp Wekeela!