Running Laps Around the Homecoming Fire

Title: Running Laps Around the Homecoming Fire

General Information about Item:

  • Customary Folklore, Tradition
  • English
  • USA

Informant Data:

  • Anonymous Male Dartmouth student in the Class of 2020.  Age: 19.  He is a part of the grade that just participated in this ritual within the past month.

Contextual Data:

  • Annual ritual at Homecoming that all Dartmouth Freshmen are encouraged to participate in.  The origins of this ritual are uncertain.  An experience that is almost a rite of passage for a Dartmouth student.  This is sort of seen as the last transition into becoming a full member of the Dartmouth community.  The ritual takes place at the location of the Bonfire, which is a Dartmouth tradition to build every year on the Green, which is the large open field in the center of town.


  • “Every year at the Homecoming fire, there is a circular section cordoned off for Dartmouth freshmen to run laps around the fire.  Tradition says that students are supposed to run 100 laps plus whatever their class year is.  For example, the class of 2020 should theoretically run 120 laps.  Overtime, this tradition has evolved into running as many laps as your class year.  So instead of 120, the class of 2020 would run only 20 laps.  Upperclassmen and Alumni are congregated around the fire outside of the cordoned off area while yelling and cheering the freshmen on.  This tradition is open to anyone, but it is primarily practiced by only freshmen.”

Informant’s Comments:

  • He was interested in knowing the origins and evolutions of the tradition.  He felt that it was interesting that the history of the tradition is never really explained to the Freshmen, they are just expected to participate in the tradition because every one else does.

Collector’s Comments:

  • Informant brought up a very intriguing point regarding the unknown history surrounding this tradition.  As a Dartmouth Senior, I couldn’t even lead him in a direction to find out that history.  It’s interesting that for such a common, well known, and heavily participated in tradition that no one really knows the origins behind it.

Collector’s Name: Devan Birch


  • Customary Folklore, Tradition, Freshmen, Homecoming

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