First Rain – A College Tradition

Background information/context of performance: DC is a 21-year-old student at University of Southern California, Santa Cruz. She grew up in Los Angeles and Alameda, CA, but is currently living in an apartment in Santa Cruz. Now that we’re back on campus, DC has been able to engage much more with UCSC culture and traditions.

DC: First Rain is another tradition that Santa Cruz has, but I think it’s the same for a lot of colleges. It still hasn’t happened this year though (laughs). Because it hasn’t even rained. It’s pretty sad, um, but I guess we still have a few weeks for it to happen.

Me: If there had been a first rain at UCSC this year, what would the tradition look like?

DC: It rains a lot in Santa Cruz usually. But a lot of students like to exercise by walking and running around campus, so maybe this came from that? I don’t know. But basically, like, whenever it rains on campus for the first time during the school year, everyone will run through campus naked. I think everyone runs from somewhere to Porter College, and the run ends there.

Me: Do you know anyone who has been able to participate in First Rain? Is that how you now about it?

DC: Yeah, I think I know a couple underclassmen friends who have? I’m not really sure. I think people mostly just know about it because it’s a big Santa Cruz thing. It just fits with the whole, like, hippie kinda reputation the college has. I remember Kayla is the one who told me about it in high school, when I decided to go here. Maybe they knew from their friends who went there in past years too.

Me: It might be too late for a First Rain this year, but would you do it next year?

DC: (laughs) Um…maybe! If my friends did it with me then I feel like it would be funny. And I’ll be a senior so I may as well since it’s my last chance. But I’m not, like, in a rush to do it. I think it’s funny though, I would definitely wanna see one before I graduate.

I have heard of this tradition occurring at multiple universities, but UCSC definitely has a culture that I feel like aligns with it tradition the most. The college is known to have a very free-spirited and artsy student body, so learning about their First Rain tradition was a fun way to see how that reputation is kept up. I also think it was very interesting to learn that First Rain has become less accessible due to the lack of rain in California, despite the fact that it was established when it rained very often during the Fall and Winter months in Santa Cruz. Hearing about this made me think about the relationship between climate change and longstanding folklore and traditions – if something like UCSC’s First Rain can no longer occur annually because the environment is much dryer than it used to be, I can only imagine how other cultural practices and traditions throughout the world have changed/become obsolete as a result of climate change as well.