Each fall, the Bryn Mawr community gathers in the Cloisters to welcome the first-years into our academic community during one of our most hallowed traditions, Lantern Night. Lit only by the light of student lanterns and surrounded by the crisp autumn air, this tradition has an ethereal quality that is hard to explain. Students don black robes and sing Greek hymns, swaying their lanterns back and forth. First-year students are entrusted with their own lanterns, symbols of wisdom and knowledge, from sophomores. The ceremony revolves around the idea of passing knowledge from generation to generation.
Even though there is a special emphasis on first-year students, everyone benefits from Lantern Night. We asked Andrea ’22 and Celine ’19 to share their thoughts about the tradition.
Q: What were your expectations for Lantern Night?
Andrea: I didn’t know what to expect other than that I knew I would come home with a lantern at the end of the night. Lantern Night, for me, meant I was officially part of the community. I’ve completed my first quarter of college and now I’m starting the second. This event marked a transition from being a brand new first-year to being a full-fledged college student.
Celine: I feel like it will feel really surreal that the next lantern night will be introducing the green class (my class color). Four years doesn’t seem like a long time, but every year I see the exchange of what the other Bryn Mawr classes represent (light blue is 2016 and 2020, red is 2017 and 2021, dark blue is 2018 and 2022) but I’ll never see the next green class because I’ll have graduated!
Q: What was your favorite part of Lantern Night?
Andrea: My favorite part was lining up and walking into the Cloisters itself because I didn’t know what to expect. I knew I would go home with a lantern, but I didn’t know what awaited me within the Cloisters. The most beautiful part was standing in the Cloisters under the starry sky. It was a picture-perfect event – runners bringing lanterns to each student in the dark, upperclassman singing a song in the background, and being surrounded by my class.
Celine: My favorite part of lantern night is definitely seeing all the lanterns lit up in the dark. The first-years all line up and as each lantern gets individually delivered to each first-year, the group is slowly illuminated. Lantern Night also features all of Bryn Mawr’s class colors, but the first years’ color is really emphasized to celebrate them and welcome them to campus.
Q: How did you feel after Lantern Night?
Andrea: I felt at home. Lantern Night is amazing because it brings everyone together. Not only are you surrounded by your entire class through the process, but you’re also welcomed by upperclassman, which is extremely heart-warming. The entire experience is magical – receiving your lantern, taking pictures with your friends outside of Taylor, and waiting for your lantern’s light to finally go out. I genuinely can’t believe I’m here at my first year of college. I’m officially a Bryn Mawr College student.
Celine: There’s a moment at the end of lantern night where seniors walk through a tunnel of underclassmen. It’s sort of a way for people to send off the senior class and celebrate their last year at Bryn Mawr – that was probably the point in the night where it really hit me that I’ll be leaving Bryn Mawr. It also hit me that I’ll really miss how Bryn Mawr traditions bring the community together and create a really special bond among those who have/are attending the college.
Q: What role do you think Lantern Night plays in the Bryn Mawr community?
Andrea: On Lantern Night, hundreds of us first-years gathered in the Cloisters to receive our lanterns, to be welcomed into the Bryn Mawr community. Lantern Night symbolizes the passing of the light of knowledge from one class to the next. This year, Class of 2022, my class, received dark blue lanterns with notes saying, “Welcome Home,” attached with dark blue strings. Lantern Night brings everyone together. Every year, the first-year class is welcomed, and it’s amazing to think about how many students have worn the black robes before you, how many classes Lantern Night has welcomed, and how next year, you’ll be welcoming a new class yourself. It’s an amazing continuous circle.
Celine: Lantern night represents the passing of the light of knowledge to each new class at Bryn Mawr. The lantern is also one of the many iconic symbols of Bryn Mawr (see the picture below of sophomore year me posing with a giant Bryn Mawr lantern during our Defy Expectations picnic). It’s also a really special tradition that simultaneously welcomes the first-years to the Bryn Mawr community and says goodbye to seniors as they begin many of their “lasts” at Bryn Mawr.
Click here to see more photos from Lantern Night 2018. Anassa kata, Class of 2022. Welcome home!