It’s getting close to that time of year when students are focusing on the next break in the academic calendar. Only just around the corner, Thanksgiving is dangling in front of us like a carrot. It’s not just the students who see the break ahead, but faculty and staff too. We all know that we have a few days of R&R, and for some, this may include much-anticipated family traditions.

Traditions don’t just apply to family. Traditions can be a part of any group or organization. My family has a few traditions, and I’ve started a few with my kids over the years. I have a wonderfully crazy group of friends that began with friendships in kindergarten. When we are together, we can tell you stories of our traditions and how they began. Even on college campuses across America, you will find traditions that are unique to the institution. On my campus, we have an annual Banana Day. Yep, Banana Day.

What is it that we like about traditions? I think it’s that feeling of knowing what to expect and look forward to. Traditions become part of the culture. On a college campus, annual traditions create a sense of connectivity between students, alumni, faculty and staff. Regardless of how silly or serious, traditions can make us feel proud to be a part of a group.

Thanksgiving in and of itself is an American tradition. As a non-religious holiday, it is a tradition that all Americans can celebrate. Did you know that many colleges and universities have specific traditions that relate directly to Thanksgiving? Here are just a few:

Ohio State University holds a Thanksgiving dinner every year. It started with less than 40 students who were not going home for the holidays. Now, Ohio State University holds a Thanksgiving dinner for hundreds of students who remain on campus during the break. They even keep the residence halls open too.

Lehigh University hosts a Turkey Trot for the campus before the holiday. The run is a good way to burn some calories before the big meal, and it’s tons of fun too.

Many international students are not going home over the break. Often you will hear of generous faculty and staff that open their homes to these students. In fact, I know of several faculty that do this every year, and they love it. The Thanksgiving Match-Up at Smith College has taken this general idea and formalized it. Can you imagine the interesting and educational conversations around the table? In fact, if international students make a connection with the host faculty member, it often leads to a lifetime friendship.

Lebanon Valley College has a 50+ year tradition of the football team leading the college community to the college president’s lawn, requesting the day before Thanksgiving off. The March to Kreiderheim (the name of the president’s house) began when LVC won a football game against a rival school and petitioned for the day off. What once began as a march of football players now involves hundreds of members of the college community. I’ll bet it’s not too often that their president says no.

Does your college have a Thanksgiving tradition? If so, I would love to hear about it.

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