here is no doubt that traditions shape our experiences as Swarthmore students. Each year, new students begin their time at Swarthmore with First Collection in the amphitheater, and seniors end their time here by processing into the amphitheater for Commencement. In between, there are a host of traditions such as Crum Regatta, the Pterodactyl Hunt, Mustache November, McCabe Mile, and Midnight Breakfast that make life at Swarthmore memorable.
Last year, a few friends and I dreamed up an idea for a new tradition on campus. We thought it would be fun to have a campus-wide celebration in preparation of the holidays, drawing inspiration from the Yule Ball in Harry Potter. A small group of us came together to bake treats, line up entertainment, and transform Sharples Dining Hall into the Great Hall of Hogwarts. In the moments before the first Yule Ball, we waited nervously in our formal wear, worried that no one would show. But more than 1,000 people attended last year's Yule Ball, and a tradition was born.
We recreated the magic this year, and the Ball was once again held the weekend before finals. The Yule Ball Committee grew into a group of twelve students, with four directors: Holly Kinnamont '12, Yana List '14, Patrick Ross '15, and me. The event grew, too—we began the planning in September and organized an entire weekend of events: Harry Potter Quizzo, Waltz lessons, a Tri-Wizard Tournament, and a takeover of the dining hall. As Yana says, "We took on so much more this year. I loved playing the Professor Sprout to Patrick's Dumbledore during the Tri-Wizard Tournament, and I was completely struck with terror when the Death Eaters stormed into Sharples."
Patrick, our youngest director, helped recruit freshmen to the planning process. "When I came to Swarthmore last summer as a prospective student, my tour guide excitedly told me about the Yule Ball, and it was consistently the only tidbit about the school that I relayed to family and friends," he says. "I even asked my cousin, a designer, and my grandmother, a seamstress, to make me a pair of dress robes for the occasion."
This year's menu included chocolate frogs, peppermint toads, licorice wands, and cauldron cakes, all prepared by students with support from Sharples Dining Hall staff. The College's a cappella groups sang carols, and DJ Ian Anderson '13 and wizard rock band Tonks and the Aurors kept the crowd dancing. Floating candles were suspended in the air along with shimmering blue lights, making for a magical transformation of Sharples. Students, faculty, and staff elected to wear fancy attire or wizard-inspired costumes, and Elèna Ruyter '14 set up a booth near the pumpkin juice to snap photos of all the guests.
We hope this tradition will continue for many years, offering holiday cheer and a sense of community to Swarthmore students before final exams. Holly puts it best: "The Yule Ball is much more than a Harry Potter themed event: it's a chance for the student body to come together and celebrate everything that's going on in our lives at an alcohol-free event. As Swatties, we're constantly pushing ourselves to make our dreams realities—that counts when we have fun, too! The Yule Ball has been such a magical experience both years that I've worked on it, and I'll remember that magic for years to come."
I'll remember it, too, as I graduate this spring and leave behind a place I've come to love. I captured some of this year's magic with my camera, and here are some of my favorite moments.