How School Traditions Leave a Lasting Impact

How School Traditions Leave a Lasting Impact

A dollar for the person who reels in the first catch on the family fishing trip. A bonfire with friends at the end of October. Lettuce with warm bacon dressing at Thanksgiving. Watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” on Christmas Eve. These are examples of my family traditions. When we think of traditions, we typically associate them with family or culture and often they relate to holidays, religion, or life’s milestones. Traditions play an important role in shaping who we are as individuals and as members of society. They imbue us with a sense of identity and belonging and help us create a shared sense of purpose and values. In a world that is constantly changing, traditions also provide us with a sense of stability and continuity. This can be especially important during times of transition, such as going off to college or starting a new job.

Traditions play an equally important role in the culture and identity of a private school like Merion Mercy Academy where they:

  • Foster a sense of community: Traditions bring together students, faculty, staff, families and alumnae to participate in shared experiences, creating a sense of connection and belonging. This can help to build relationships and support networks, which is particularly important in a school where students come from a variety of different backgrounds.

  • Serve as a source of pride and identity: Traditions offer an opportunity to come together with classmates and create lasting memories. These occasions are an essential part of the teenage experience.

  • Promote school values: Traditions reinforce the core values and principles of the school. For example, a tradition like Mercy Day emphasizes the importance of giving back, while a tradition like Carol Night honors one’s faith.

  • Encourage school spirit: Traditions can help to build school spirit and pride, particularly in sports and other extracurriculars. School songs, pep rallies, and other traditions can create a sense of enthusiasm and excitement around school events and activities.

  • Preserve the school's history and legacy: Traditions can serve as a way to honor the school's past and its founders, preserving its history and legacy for future generations.

In addition to the typical school milestones like prom and graduation, Merion Mercy is home to a number of distinctly MMA traditions, including:

Mercy Day: Mercy Day (September 24th) is an annual, worldwide recognition of the foundress of the Sisters of Mercy, Catherine McAuley, and her mission to serve those in need and her commitment to education. Mercy Day also connects to an annual project called the "The Mercy Girl Effect," which is a student-run program that benefits women and girls in need throughout the world. 

Harvest Moon: More than 85 years ago, Merion Mercy Academy—then known as Mater Misericordiae Academy—began holding a Harvest Moon Ball. Originally, the Harvest Moon Ball raised money for the Missions, and it was held off campus with an orchestra and patrons. A few decades after its origin, the Harvest Moon Ball became known as simply the Harvest Moon, and it started to take place in Merion Mercy’s gymnasium with a band (then eventually switching to a DJ). 

Weenie Roast: A tradition for more than 50 years, MMA’s Weenie Roast provides a fun-filled day for students to show off their Halloween best and to enjoy lunch with their friends and the entire school community. Usually, each advisory group creates a skit based on the school year theme to perform for the entire community. The skits are voted on and the winners enjoy some treats and bragging rights. Lunch is, you guessed it, grilled hot dogs.

Carol Night: Merion Mercy Academy rings in the holidays with Carol Night. When the school was smaller, all students attended; the event is now just for seniors who don red robes and sing carols. This festive evening includes the nativity tableau and performances by our musicians, dancers and vocal groups. The program concludes with alumnae (who are also invited) taking the stage and singing the perennial Carol Night favorite “O Holy Night.” The nativity tableau includes a “Baby Jesus”—a baby from the MMA community.

Ring Night: This important rite-of-passage and school tradition in the name of Sisterhood and Mercy features a special Mass, ceremony, and reception in honor of the junior class. At this event and liturgical celebration, to which parents and faculty are invited, juniors are called to upper class leadership and receive unique MMA school rings, joining them in a bond of unity and the Circle of Mercy.

What our community has to say about Merion Mercy traditions:

“Joining my other Merion sisters in the various traditions we have makes our school unique.” —Ashley Gomes ‘24 

“The best thing about being a Merion student is participating in the fun traditions we have. These include Weenie Roast, Harvest Moon, Advent Angels, and even the Boogie Down. These traditions truly make students happy and they are things that I won't ever forget.” —Josephine Doherty ‘25

“When I got my class ring (during Ring Mass), it made me feel like I was fully into the sisterhood. I loved getting to celebrate it with all of my friends.” —Grace Siorek ‘23

“We always looked forward to Harvest Moon, and growing up having a homecoming dance seemed like an integral part of the high school experience. I'll never forget the bustle in the school hallways leading up to the week of the dance. Harvest Moon was one tradition I always looked forward to and the one I will miss the most!” —Morgan Wolfe ‘23

“Merion has brought me endless memories, but my favorite thus far has been our first Senior Tailgate as rising seniors. I especially enjoyed this event because I was surrounded by my Merion sisters, celebrating our last year together. Sisterhood is a substantial part of the experience here.” —Rebecca Fanelli ‘23

“One of the most memorable moments I had at Merion was Carol Night. It was so special to take part in a tradition that has been a part of Merion for so long. I will forever remember the joy I felt that night singing with my friends, and getting in the Christmas spirit.” —Annie McGovern ‘23

"As a former Social Studies teacher, I am fond of the quote attributed to Mark Twain that history does not repeat itself, but it rhymes. Many of our traditions are generational, from sister to sister, mother to daughter, granddaughter to grandmother. While they all take on a flare for the latest and greatest trend. they are all deeply generationally rooted in the sisterhood of Merion Mercy." –Paul Clementi, Dean of Students

Readers, share your favorite traditions with us in the comments below!