To be honest, I wasn’t really looking forward to Lantern Night this year. I hadn’t been feeling well that weekend and I was stressed about a lot of homework, so I was worried that committing to be a swinger during the ceremony was going to be a huge, unpleasant time-suck. I didn’t want to be stressed during Lantern Night, but there was nothing I could do. As a massive thunderstorm raged outside, I stood around Thomas Great Hall with my friends, trying to memorize the Pallas song during our last few hours before the beginning of the ceremony (the lyrics can be found in Greek and English here). I tried to remind myself of why I’d signed up to participate in the first place: I know a lot of first-years (including my cousin), one of my best friends (Sohini, who was my roommate last year) is a traditions mistress, and another close friend from our customs group is the songsmistress, I’d liked being a runner last year, and I love the cloisters and Bryn Mawr.
Before Lantern Night could begin, there were a lot of preparations which needed to happen. Swingers are juniors and seniors who stand in the arches of the cloisters and swing their lanterns up and down while singing the Pallas Athena. We provide the background music for the runners as they deliver the lanterns to the first-years. After the first-years pick up their lanterns and sing the Sophias, we sing the Sophias on repeat until they’ve all left the cloisters. Each arch is supposed to contain one junior and one senior, and we raise and lower our lanterns in contrasting patterns. While we were waiting for everything to start, everyone started to arrange themselves in the arches, searching for a partner. My former customs person, Gabby, teasingly tried to get my friend Jamie and I to fight for the honor of standing next to her, but our friend Cordelia stepped in to claim me as her arch buddy. I was also right next to my other former customs person, Angela!
When the lights were all darkened in Thomas, the crowd fell into a hushed silence, and the first-years began filing into the cloisters in the quiet darkness. As their robes rustled with movement, I felt my stress begin to fade away. At the cue of Sofi, senior songsmistress, we all stepped up into our arches, lanterns at the ready. Though I didn’t exactly know every word of the Pallas, I knew enough to sing loudly and clearly as the first light blue lanterns were dashed across the still-wet grass. I fell into a ceaseless rhythm, switching arms at the bottom of my swing whenever I felt the strain on my muscles and grasping a bit more of the song with each rendition. I remembered my own Lantern Night, and how beautiful and strange the whole ceremony had seemed. It still held some of that mystery for me, even though I knew the identities of most of the black-robed figures lining the stone walls. My hell daughter, Maya, was a runner, and she tapped me lightly with each pass, each time reminding me of the incredible community I’ve found here at Bryn Mawr.
I started to notice the weight of my lantern around the fifth rendition of the Sophias, though the ceremony mercifully ended before I could really find cause for complaint. My throat was dry and cracked from singing, and I realized my eyes were brimming with tears. I watched Sohini master the hordes of confused first-years trying to return their robes, got hot chocolate with my hell mom Emma, and caught up with my cousin to delight in her light blue lantern next to mine. I felt like I’d been set back on track, and regained some of that wisdom we sing of passing on. I love the giggle that resonates through the crowd as generations of Mawrtyrs remember the joys of the up-tempo “Enthoumometha orthos hosa praxomen orthos” line in the Sophias. I love seeing hundreds of lanterns shining in the night, championing wisdom and community. I love Bryn Mawr, and welcoming new family home. Happy Lantern Night, baby blues!