Traditions: Traditions, old and new

If you are familiar with the Broadway musical “Fiddler on the Roof,” then you must be familiar with the opening song, “Tradition.” In this song, the people of Anatevka sing about how their lives are shaped by their many traditions. I believe that we can all relate to the characters in the musical. We all have traditions in our lives that help identify who we are.

Traditions can help identify us in a number of ways. They can identify us as a member of a family, a religion or a nationality. Traditions can also identify us as students at Virginia Wesleyan College. VWC has a number of traditions such as Airband, the Christmas Tree Lighting and Seafood at the Dell just to name a few. One of my favorite traditions was the painting of the Adirondack chairs.

On the first day of Scene II Orientation, each FYE class was assigned an Adirondack chair that they were responsible for painting. Students wrote their names, class years and any messages or designs they wanted.  Once the paint was dry, the chairs were spread throughout campus and remained there for the next four years. After each class graduated, their chairs would be painted over and given to the next freshmen class. This gave students the opportunity to show off their talent and leave their mark on the campus. The fact that it was on the first day was significant because it made it clear to freshmen that they were officially part of the VWC community.

Year after year, the painting of Adirondack chairs by each freshman class has been a beloved tradition. Unfortunately, the 2020 freshmen class never got a chance to experience it.

Instead, this year, two new traditions were formed. The first one was an interesting practice surrounding the John Wesley foot. If you touch the foot of the John Wesley statue, it will supposedly bring you good luck. This is very similar to a tradition at the University of Pennsylvania, where students rub the foot of a statue of Benjamin Franklin.

The second new tradition is the Wesleyan Wishing Well. What used to be a generic fountain behind the John Wesley statue is now the Wesleyan Wishing Well. Students are encouraged to place their spare change in the well throughout the year. At the end of the year, the college will add up all the spare change and the alumni association will double the amount. That money will be given to the graduating class for them to do with as they please.

I do not have any problem with the addition of these new traditions. As a matter of fact, I actually think they are pretty cool. However, I have an issue with the fact freshmen didn’t get to paint the chairs. The chair painting has been a tradition at VWC for years.

According to the college, officials chose to discontinue this tradition because they felt there was not enough interest among the student body. I find this hard to believe. Almost everyone I talked to about the cessation of the adirondack tradition expressed disappointment.

It is not as if the college had to get rid of the old tradition to make way for new ones. Touching Wesley’s foot and flipping a coin into the well are actions you can do throughout the year. Yes, there was a ceremony on the last day of Scene II Orientation where each freshman was handed a coin to give to the well that did take up some time. However, that event would not have conflicted with painting the chairs. What really conflicted with painting the chairs was the change in the schedule.

It used to be that on the first day of orientation, parents would leave at 1 p.m. and freshmen would start their FYE classes. The day would end with painting the chairs and the Freshmen Festival. This year, parents did not have to leave until 3 p.m., the freshmen went to their first assembly shortly afterwards, and the day ended with a picnic and the Freshmen Festival. I understand wanting to give freshmen more time to spend with their parents because saying goodbye can be hard and it also makes sense to give them a day to adjust before starting FYE. However, they still could have painted the chairs. They could have done that instead of having a picnic or they could have done it during the picnic or the Freshmen Festival. My point is that they could have made it work.

As a proud Marlin, the traditions at VWC are important to me and I don’t want to see them go away. As Tevye, the protagonist of “Fiddler on the Roof,” states, “Without our traditions, our lives will be as shaky as a fiddler on the roof.”

Michael Willson