Here is a true story from Maine Camp Experience (MCE) lore: an eight-year-old camper, who was spending his first summer at an MCE camp, lost his tooth. And so, he did what any newly toothless eight-year old would do – he washed his mouth, took his new tooth, and put it under his pillow to await a gift from the tooth fairy. The only problem – he never told his counselors! When the tooth fairy never came, he wrote to his mother, who quickly responded “the tooth fairy doesn’t know you’re at camp, just put your tooth under your pillow and I’ll be sure to tell them so they know where to find you.” She called camp that day, told them about her son’s lost tooth, and the next day he awoke with candy under his pillow!
Camp is a unique time and place for children to grow summer after summer – but just because camp is removed from every-day life, that doesn’t mean that every-day life moments don’t happen at camp! Two staple milestones of childhood are lost teeth and birthdays – and at MCE camps there are plenty of both. Of course, each camp has their own unique traditions and approaches to these milestones – so let’s see how different camps celebrate!
When a camper loses a tooth, she puts in under her pillow and at night while she is asleep the camp tooth fairy, named Varna, gives her a chocolate bar called a ‘Varna Bar.’ Of course, Varna (who is a general magical presence at camp) is sure to communicate with the tooth fairy at home to let her know that, while a child is at camp, Varna will take over all tooth-fairy duties!
A child puts their lost tooth under their pillow, and wakes up to candy under their pillow the next day! Campers who have lost teeth are also called up to raise or lower the flag that morning/evening in order to celebrate.
At one camp the Tooth Fairy doesn’t give candy, but instead leaves a unique temporary camp tattoo that campers get to put on to celebrate their new lost tooth!
Campers leave their tooth under their pillow with a note, and the next day the Camp Tooth Fairy has replaced their tooth with a special treat!
Summer Birthday Bashes
On a camper’s birthday, their parents send up a “birthday box” full of little toys and knick-knacks. These are then used as party-favors for their bunkmates at the campers’ birthday celebration in the dining hall. The camper will sit with their bunk at a decorated table, and the whole camp sings happy birthday. At the end of the meal, they are given a handmade cake of their choice baked by the camp chef!
Campers wake up on their birthday with their bed area decorated. Then, that day the whole camp sings a traditional camp birthday song, and kids get a phone call home and an extra birthday package. Each session there is also a camp-wide birthday party to celebrate all the summer birthdays that have occurred – each cabin group sits together, the birthday camper(s) decide on a theme, and all campers and counselors dress up!
Birthdays begin with a flagpole announcement followed by a round of “Happy Birthday” – and since everyone knows it’s your birthday after the announcement, campers are bombarded with hundreds of birthday wishes throughout the day. At lunch a special birthday banquet table is set for you in the middle of the dining room and your entire bunk family (campers, counselors, bunk aunts and uncles) enjoys lunch together with the birthday girl sitting at the head of the table. Perhaps the very best part of the day is the homemade green and white birthday cake (made in house by the camp chef since 1974, Big John) – the frosting is amazing! Of course the office is happy to hold a present or two from parents, to be delivered on the special day, and often bunkmates make cards to celebrate the day.
Birthdays begin at breakfast with the entire dining room singing the camp cheer and Happy Birthday. At lunch the birthday camper is given a birthday cake by her camp sister and other close friends while the camp sings a number of traditional camp birthday songs. Then the camper brings the cake to the director, who cuts it, wishes the camper a happy birthday, and gives her the first piece of cake! Once she is back at her table her bunk sings her a song they have written for her in celebration of her special day.
Campers’ birthdays are celebrated throughout the day – first, they are recognized at the morning flagpole assembly, and their counselors and bunkmates will decorate their bunk for them. Campers also get a present from home, and an extra phone call home – however the real event comes at dinner. Everyone at camp eats together and sings our special birthday song as the birthday girl’s bunkmates serenade her with a special musical parade (maracas and triangle, etc.). The birthday camper has to skip around the dining hall while everyone sings to her, and then she stands on the bench or table while she is interviewed by the camp director in front of the whole camp. Finally, she chooses a staff member to “catch her cake.” One of the directors then throws her cake up over the rafters in the dining hall and the chosen staff member has to catch it. Sometimes girls ask for the throws to go extra high over two rafters, or extra long across two sets of rafters. It is really fun and the whole camp looks forward to this birthday spectacle!
As you can see, there’s nothing mundane about celebrating these life moments at camp – from lost teeth to birthday celebrations, these are just a few more examples of how camps’ spirit and traditions make each and every milestone memorable!
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 Camp Guide, Laurie to discuss these camps as well as for free, year-round advice and assistance on choosing a great Maine summer camp for your child.
Talk to Laurie, our Maine Campcierge™, about choosing the right camp for your child and what to do in Maine.