Before noon on the weekend, St. Thomas University’s campus is generally deserted. But during campus traditions like April 6th Day, an energetic sense of comradery brings people out of their dorm rooms ready to kickstart the day among fellow students.
“We got up. We ate together. We laughed together. There would be music playing all day.”
Autumn Lawrence remembers her time as the former Harrington Hall president fondly, especially on the days traditions brought people together.
April 6th Day was one of those days. Usually held near the last day of classes, students play outdoor activities like egg on a spoon, a three-legged race, an obstacle course and even a water slide.
But this day starts with opening ceremonies at midnight. The current house president will read a statement speaking of the day’s history and the qualities of the house and its members. Everyone holds up sparklers and sip ginger-ale, which they call “champagne.”
At the end of the event-filled day, the “president’s jacket” and gavel are ceremoniously given to Harrington’s newly-elected president as they transition into the next year.
Lawrence thinks April 6th Day is one of the most important days of the year.
“April 6th Day became a day of celebration and comradery and what it means to be a [Harrington House] raider.”
She explained April 6th Day is an event Harrington residents look forward to after the stressful winter months, but many other houses have their own traditions with their own activities.
STU students have had more than 50 years to develop traditions. Some were started by ordinary residents but others have been perpetuated by past successes of house committee organized events.
Holy Cross House has its most popular event close to the end of first semester.
Thunderfriends is a variation of traditional Secret Santa. Students draw a person’s name and they must get three gifts for that person: two homemade and one purchased. Participants must deliver the gifts secretly during the week. Before the holiday break, the residents of Holy Cross gather and open their final gift and reveal the identity of their secret gift-giver.
As the smallest residence on campus, Thunderfriends demonstrates the close-knit nature of the house.
“You do know everybody pretty well, so you can probably come up with a good gift,” said Sara-Jade Russell Richard, Holy Cross House’s current president.
Vanier’s hallmark tradition, Vanier Days, happens during the second week of February. Vanier president, Kyra Wilson, assumes people need a stress-reliever by that point in the semester.
Vanier Days includes a week of fun activities including a birthday party for the house, a board game night, movies and of course, the passion party.
It’s like a Tupperware party, but for sex toys.
“[The presenter] shows them off, she tells a lot of funny stories and then at the end people have the opportunity to buy some if they want to,” said Wilson.
Another Vanier tradition allows local women and children from the Fredericton women’s transition house to trick or treat door-to-door in the residence. Residents will dress up and give out candy in the safe space.
“It’s always a huge hit. Past Vanier people are like, ‘Can I just come in and set up a booth and give out candy?’ And it’s like ‘Sure, if you want to,'” said Wilson.
Although Chatham Hall is the newest of the residences, built in 2003, it still has its annual traditions. Chatham Hall Day is held in March. It’s a day dedicated to friendly activities. Depending on the year, there could be an Easter egg hunt, a barbecue and games that offer prizes.
These traditions are meant to increase house pride and help with bonding between housemates.
One final tradition brings the entire campus together at the end of the year. Washburn is the annual hockey match between upper and lower campus.
It was founded when members of Harrington and Holy Cross came together to put on an amateur hockey match. They approached LeRoy Washburn, who was the St. Thomas athletics director that year. He provided the original Washburn Cup, named in his honour, and the encouragement the players needed. Every year since then, the Washburn Cup has been held in March. The cup, passed down through generations, now resides in Chatham, last year’s winners.
To students such as Brynn Weston, campus traditions, mark an important part of the university experience.
“Having STU traditions might even affect how long you plan to be here, because if you have a good time with them, it could make you want to stick around longer,” said Winston, who is now in her fourth year living in residence.
Weston wants to remember the fun times with friends during the residence traditions for years to come.
“I’ll be sad to leave and I hope that my friends on campus will still contact me to join in when our [Holy Cross House] traditions are still going on. I still want to feel like a part of the STU community.”