Tag Archives: Liminal Phase

Harvard Graduation Tradition

Main Piece:

I: Before you graduate, you’re supposed to like streak through some part of the Yard, have sex in the library– the library sex– and pee on the Harvard statue’s foot. And then I heard there’s a fourth where you’re supposed to jump in the river, but like I don’t know…

Me: What’s the statue?

I: Pee on the statue’s foot– like it’s so gross because the statue’s foot looks a little different… and like, tourists touch it? It’s supposed to be like a lucky thing, but they don’t know that people are peeing on it! It’s so gross (laughing).

Me: What’s the statue called?

I: Oh John Harvard statue. And it’s like yellow…like it’s a different color than the rest of the statue and like people touch it (shuddering). 

Me: Do you have to do all of these things right before you graduate?

I: I think just at some point during college, like you could knock them all out freshmen year if you wanted to.


My informant is a good friend from high school. She’s a freshman at Harvard University, where she was able to attend in-person during the pandemic. She learned about this tradition through her roommate, whose brother graduated from Harvard in 2020. She says that her roommate’s brother peed on the statue and went streaking, but didn’t complete the other activities. Because of the pandemic, she has still been pretty isolated, so she hasn’t met many seniors and wouldn’t know people who performed this ritual. She tells me that she would not do this tradition. 


This is a transcript of a conversation between my friend and me over the phone. We were talking about ethnic traditions before his conversation until I asked her if she knew any folklore from her school, which reminded her of this tradition.


This tradition, or ritual, of university seniors performing a series of rebellious or profane acts (from the institution’s point of view), is indicative of the liminal period. In this period of liminality, university seniors are straddling two different identities, and are close to a state of being identity-less. They are not quite university students anymore, yet they may not have acquired an “adult” job in the “real world” yet either. This liminal period can thus be filled with feelings of freedom, but also tension from being identity-less. Pranks and rebellious acts can then be a way to resolve and alleviate this stress. Streaking in public on campus, peeing on the statue of an authority figure, and having sex in a taboo place on campus can be both freeing, as students are disregarding university rules and methods of alleviating tension. 

Custom Henna

In Indian weddings in general, Henna is very very important. And it is said that the darker it is, the more your husband loves you.
This belief, while known to be a mere superstition, is still venerated and guarded as paramount to the success of a marriage. So much so, that there are articles and tips in Indian wedding magazines and blogs as to how to obtain a darker stained Mehndi. Some brides, Mayuri mentioned, go so far as to bleach the skin around their upper and nether limbs in order to have the henna stand out more from their skin and appear darker.

Mopping a Theatre Floor

“Mopping the floor after every strike is supposed to symbolize the completion of a show and the allowance of another one to be built on the same place. That and it makes everything all shiny and such.”

This cleansing ritual is used as a transition between shows performed in the same theatre. In my high school, the honor was only performed by seniors, but in the informant’s theatre it is open to anyone and everyone who wants to help ease the transition between shows and mark the liminal phase. It probably started out of the necessity of cleanliness, and stuck around as a transition  ritual.

The Midnight Dare

Informant Background: The individual was born in Bangkok, Thailand. She grew up there and still has family in Thailand. She said her family origin is Chinese. Her family still performs a lot of Chinese traditions such as: Chinese New Year, Ancestry Day, etc. Being in Thailand her family also practice a lot of the Thai traditions. She does not speak Chinese but she does speak Thai and English. She currently lives in Los Angeles to go to school. She has been travelling back and forth between the United States and Thailand constantly throughout the years because her family still resides in Bangkok.


If you want to know who you were in your past life…You light a candle, turn off all the lights…And then at midnight you stared into the mirror…then your reflection will be what you looked like before this life. I tried this once with my sisters. We stayed up when we were in elementary school and went to our bathroom and looked at the mirror. We all ran away from the mirror before it’s midnight because we were all too scared.

The informant said that this is a dare many kids were told in school by their classmates in Bangkok. While growing up she was told about this game by her classmates at school and her older relatives. It is a dare usually done in groups and usually takes place in the bathroom. It was a test of courage among young children, and sometimes even adults. It is one of the sleepover dare or camp dare. Sometimes it is a dare told at school and then some individual try it at his/her own home. Most of the time the majority would run away before the clock strikes midnight from fear of the unknown. She said according to the dare some people who tried it and stayed passed the midnight mark said they saw shadows, silhouette of a person, or even blood dripping on the mirror.

This also becomes a belief among some people. The informant stated that she avoid looking into the mirror at midnight herself until this day just because of the dare. She said even though she did not stayed until midnight to see the alternate reflection the fear still lingers constantly.



This shows how fear plays a part in belief and how it interferes and shapes a person’s daily life routine. I think that this dare, similar to the concept of legend, is kept alive by certain “friend of a friend” memorate. An alternate reflection does not have to happen every time but if it happened to someone once in a while the story can continues. It is similar to the “Bloody Mary” dare that children do because both challenge the idea of fear. It is also a bonding experience for groups of people under scary unknown circumstance.

Turning off the lights while having the only one light as a single candle emphasizes this idea where many ghost stories are relating more to primitive objects rather than contemporary objects. Candles are barely used in everyday life and mostly used in religious and spiritual settings.

This dare also shows the fear and the unknown concept at the liminal period in a certain time line or cycle. In this case the liminality, or the in between state, is at mid night which is the in-between state of two days, night and morning.

Since Thailand is a Buddhist country, the majority of the people believe in reincarnation. So to be able to see your past life is to see who you were before, which is unknown. It challenges the concept of beliefs and fear of knowing what you’ve done before this life.

The fear around mirror and mirror reflection echoes in Western Traditions as well: a vampire has no reflection, ghost does not appear in the mirror, ghost only appears in mirror, etc. The idea of mirror as another realm or reflection as a parallel world is a common theme that resonates in many cultures.


“Okay, so one of the games that we play in college is called Druzzles. And, uh, it’s this thing where a bunch of us drink heavily. We have a bunch of shots, get really drunk… and once we are sufficiently inebriated, then you pair up into teams of two and um, everyone busts out a small, one hundred piece puzzle, fifty piece puzzle, something like that, and then you, uh, someone starts, uh, like, a timer or something like that and all of the teams race to see who can finish the puzzle first, which is always an interesting game to see because everyone’s really drunk.”


This drinking game is particularly interesting because, unlike many other drinking games, it requires a lot of forethought. Most other drinking games require little more than some cups, ping-pong balls, or a stack of cards. On the other hand, for Druzzles, you have to go out and buy multiple small puzzles and prepare for the game (unless you’ve played the game several times and already have enough small puzzles.)

Druzzles represents an interesting perversion of a childhood game, but also, in some ways, a reversion to childhood. The informant mentioned that the puzzles they use for the game are very small (50-100 pieces). These types of puzzles tend to be made for children (he also told me that the puzzles they use often have cartoon characters from popular children’s television shows.) On the one hand, Druzzles takes a childhood game and perverts or sullies it by incorporating the aspect of underage drinking. On the other hand, the game sort of represents a method for one to revert to a child-like state of mind. When you are a kid, a 50-100 piece puzzle can be quite challenging and might occupy an hour of playtime with a friend. When you are an adult, such a simple puzzle can be put together in mere minutes, especially with the help of a friend. However, all of the drinking that is involved in this game can make it very difficult for the participants to put together the puzzles.

It’s fitting that the informant learned this game in college. After all, college is a liminal period in one’s life; you’re no longer a kid but you’re not quite a fully formed adult. The game of Druzzles conflates these phases of life by incorporating elements from childhood (the puzzles) and elements of adulthood (drinking.)