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Let’s Talk Traditions

Zoë names and describes her top five Carleton traditions.

Zoë names and describes her top five Carleton traditions.

A common question prospective students ask me is: “What are the best Carleton traditions?” While there are tons of traditions to pick from, several stand out to me as my personal favorites. I highlight my top five below.

Freshman Frisbee Toss

The Freshman Frisbee Toss is the first Carleton tradition in which all Carls participate. In fact, the event takes place the very day that first-years arrive on campus, marking the start of New Student Week. All first-years are supplied with their own frisbee. Then, everyone writes their name on the back of their frisbee and encircles the main campus quad (affectionately known as the Bald Spot), tossing their disc into the center. Afterwards, everyone picks up someone else’s frisbee and is expected to return it to its rightful owner over the next few days, effectively making a new friend.

frisbee toss
A shot from my Freshman Frisbee Toss in 2019.

Such a tradition demonstrates the popularity of ultimate frisbee at Carleton—the school excels at the sport and boasts six teams (at the Division I, Division III, and club levels)! Our teams go to nationals, and have claimed the title of National Champions several times.

And here’s an even cooler shot of the Toss in action!

Friday Flowers

One of the most popular Carleton traditions, Friday Flowers is a sweet way to show your love and appreciation for your friends. Every Friday, a local florist sets up shop in Sayles, our student center. Students buy small bouquets for each other with handwritten notes, sticking them in the recipient’s mailbox. It is a joy to see the mailboxes chock-full of mini flower bouquets, and it’s as fun to distribute them to your friends as it is to receive one.

Friday Flowers
Rows of mailboxes stuffed with Friday Flowers, awaiting a visit from their recipient.

Chasing Schiller

Perhaps one of the most bizarre Carleton traditions, the hunt for the bust of Schiller is an ongoing one. What started as a joke—when Carleton student ​​Bruce Herrick (Class of ’58) found an old bust of German philosopher Friedrich Schiller from a campus storage room to use as a room decoration—turned into a lively scavenger hunt, with the bust of Schiller stolen from one group of students by another. Schiller has made appearances in Mexico, at Commencement held by President Bill Clinton, and even on the Stephen Colbert Show.

With the help of a former Carl, the bust of Schiller made it into the hands of Stephen Colbert.


Right before Winter Term begins, the College floods the Bald Spot. Two large ice rinks are installed on the grass. Admittedly, I’ve never played broomball, so it’s on my bucket list. An adapted version of hockey, players wear flat-bottomed footwear, play with oddly-configured hockey sticks, and use a foam ball instead of a puck to play. Students form teams, and even senior administrators (that’s right, the President and Dean of the College) join in on the fun!

A game of broomball in action.

Ice skating is another popular recreational activity. Ice skates are free to rent from the Recreation Center, and when intramural broomball isn’t in session, students are free to skate around the ice rinks whenever they’d like.

Midwinter Ball

Midwinter Ball is a school-wide dance well attended by the student body. It takes place in Sayles, with a room dedicated to pop music, another to swing dancing, and another to salsa. Free pizza is doled out from the Carleton Post Office, and everyone dresses up in medium-fancy attire. I can’t wait for its in-person return this winter.

midwinter ball
My friends and me at the dance during Winter Term of 2020.

Bonus tradition: Cookie Baking at Dacie Moses!

The Dacie Moses House is dedicated to baking cookies and hosting Sunday brunches. Fully stocked with cookie baking supplies and a pleasant atmosphere to relax, hang out with friends, and meet new people, it is one of the most wholesome places on campus. This summer, I entered the Dacie Moses pie baking contest with my housemates. The results? You’ll have to read about the outcome in my previous blog post.

dacie moses
An illustration of the Dacie Moses House.

While these are some of the most central Carleton traditions, there are lots of others that I didn’t mention! Check out this cool timeline to learn more about the founding and celebration of Carleton traditions over the decades.

Zoë is a junior Sociology-Anthropology major who loves traveling and studying abroad, taking photos, and luxuriating in long walks in the glorious Arb. At Carleton, some of Zoë’s favorite pastimes include frequenting the various coffee shops in downtown Northfield, playing cello in the orchestra, participating in club soccer, and spending time with friends. Meet the other bloggers!