What’s the story behind the tradition?
“I don’t know if this story is true, but every summer the oldest age group went on their long camping trip, overnight-thing. Then they would come back to camp, and for some reason, one year, the age group ended up …like… in an orange grove or some back area that was dusty, and then somehow water was involved and they accidentally got covered in mud, and then they ran into camp and started hugging everyone.”
What does the tradition look like now?
“It became a tradition, and now it’s very… everyone does it and gets completely covered in mud. There’s a dance, you make a dance and a chant, and you perform and then you go run and hug everyone and then you go shower. Once everyone is all nice and clean, we all put on while clothes and celebrate Shabbat [the Jewish Sabbath].”
My informant is my twin sister. She is Jewish, attended Los Angeles public school, and is currently a USC student. She went to a Jewish summer camp for multiple years. This information was collected during a family zoom call where we were checking in with each other. Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath, is celebrated from Friday night to Saturday night every week.
I’m familiar with this tradition because I have participated in it, both as the person hugging and as the person receiving hugs. It’s the culmination of a week-long camping trip without showers, so getting covered in mud is a symbol of how dirty the participants feel. The layers of mud are so thick that the participants almost don’t look human. The dance and the chant give the participants a chance to celebrate themselves after a hard week. The hugs are a lot of fun because you get to cover a group of completely clean people in mud. After getting clean, all of the participants wear white to juxtapose how dirty they used to be. My mother attended this same summer camp in the 70s and she never observed this tradition. This means we can establish a terminus post quem and claim that this legend and tradition originated after the 70s.