Stepping Into Tradition: What It’s Like to be New at Camp
July 5, 2016, by Kristy
Stepping Into Tradition: What It’s Like to be New at Camp
July 5, 2016, by Kristy

Written by Jake

Every camp has its story, and perhaps one aspect that truly makes the Maine Camp Experience unique is the history and sense of tradition that imbues each camp. Some of these camps are over one hundred years old, and each camp has its own songs and its own cheers, its own ceremonies, events, and traditions that color the summer and define the culture of camp. However, while these camps may be old and storied, some of the campers – and many of the staff – are often times new to any specific camp characteristics and traditions. So what is it like to be a new face in an old place, and to step into a storied world of tradition?

While I spent many years as a camper at a Maine Camp Experience (MCE) camp, and have worked at camps across the country, I am in the midst of my inaugural summer at the MCE camp I am currently working for. Through my first several weeks, I have been exposed to and immersed in the various traditional elements that make this camp what it is. Camp traditions permeate every aspect of the day. Campers’ days are dictated by bugle calls – they wake to reveille and Taps sends them to bed, as has been the case for nearly a century. There is the traditional pre-meal grace, and the traditional Friday services (though both are non-denominational in this case). There are the songs that each old camper knows by heart, and the dining room cheers and chants that every new camper has avidly learned.

At the Maine Camp Experience camp I am currently working at – as well many other MCE camps, including the one I attended – the session is kicked off with an opening campfire. During this campfire, we are exposed to the ceremonies that have survived since camp’s inception; we recite the stories of camp’s early days, and we sing the songs that have been sung for hundreds of years. All of this is not done simply to create an enjoyable evening or an ephemeral ambiance, although both of these are achieved. Instead, this campfire specifically serves to connect all campers and staff with the spirit of camp – and as the campfire ends, an older camper rises and says, “After tonight there are no new campers or returning campers, no new staff or returning staff. From now on, we are simply campers and staff.”

Being new to a camp goes beyond making simple introductions and familiarizing yourself with the camp routines. In order to truly connect with the people and the place, it is vital that a new camper or counselor openly embraces the camp quirks and traditions that define their new summer home. There is no place quite like camp, and a large part of this has to do with the fact that, while the world we live in is constantly changing, camp exists on a different plane that values continuity and emphasizes tradition.

And so, the connection with camp is largely about connecting with those who have come before you and embracing the fact that a summer or ten spent in Maine simply transcends time. If a new camper or counselor goes out of their way to learn the history, the traditions, and the way of life at their particular camp, they will not only allow camp to make an impression on them, but they will put themselves in a position to make an impression on the camp. And sooner than you can imagine, you will not only be living camp’s traditions, but passing them on to the next generation.

Maine Camp Experience Resources & Tools

Looking for the perfect Maine camp for your child?  Try out our helpful tool where you can select a camp by choosing: type of camp (girls, boys or coed) and session length (1-8 weeks).  It helps to narrow down a few camps to a manageable list that includes rates.  Then you can research these camps in more depth.  

Next, be sure to contact our Maine Campcierge™ to discuss these camps as well as for free, year-round advice and assistance on choosing a great Maine summer camp for your child.

You can share your own Maine camps memories & expressions of gratitudeon our Memories of Camp section of our website.

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