Scout Camp Closing Campfire Traditions

This tradition belongs to the scout camp that the teller worked at over the summer as a teenager. He explains that every week, there is an opening campfire and a closing campfire, the staff performing for the scouts in the first and the scouts performing for the group in the second. 

“At the end of those campfires, we always sing a song as a couple of the staff members escort everyone out of the campfire bowl. It’s like these scout vespers. It’s to the tune of “Oh Christmas Tree” and it’s just this slow song about like, loving your parents, trying to be a nice person, following the scout law […] and so, it’s like a super chill and slow way to end the night. And once all the scouts leave, we [the staff] slowly ramp the song up until we’re like shouting it […] and we’ll like, start jumping,and that’s when it’ll end with a little call-and-response thing, where whoever is program director will say “aye aye aye” and everyone is like “aye aye aye.” Then that’s when the program director [and everyone] congratulate each other for a good campfire, and then [the program director] pulls out someone they would like to recognize that week. 

Context: This tradition was gathered from a conversation I had with the teller, where I asked if there were any significant traditions or festivals he remembered from his life. As previously mentioned, this tradition is from a summer scout camp that the teller worked at. The camp operated on a weekly basis across a month or so, where a new batch of scouts were brought in each week. The teller told me of three traditions, of which this is the first. 

Analysis: Both campers and the staff involve themselves in this tradition, all of them performing for the closed population, with no external audience. The closing campfire traditions have liminal significance, marking the departure of the scouts from their week long excursion. The closing campfire mirrors the significance of the opening campfire, emphasizing the connections created at the camp and the lessons learned during the experience. Both the persisting song that continues after the campers leave, and the call and response activity, seems to be commemorating a lasting connection built during the week-long program in spite of the departure of the scouts, which brings a physical distance between the scouts and the staff. Additionally, the unity celebrated in both activities also marks a transition for the campers, as they are perhaps now of the same level as the staff that guided them.