Residence: Tacoma, Washington
Date of Performance/Collection: April 2012
Primary Language: English
Folk item/tradition/game/initiation ceremony
My friend told me about a folk object/tradition from her school:
“The spade is close to 100 years old. It is literally a shovel, but is very old. The tradition is that every graduating Class has a color tie that they must wear at all times, and at the end of the school year, the graduating Seniors tie a ribbon of the same color on the spade. Usually people embroider their year, since only 4 colors are used. The spade is used in a tree planting ceremony, but the Hiding-of-the-Spade ritual.
The graduating Senior Class must hide the spade and leave clues for the rising Senior Class. These clues are presented by a representative of the graduated Senior Class on the first day of school (now alumnae). The Seniors have until October 31st to find the spade. if the Senior Class has not found the spade, then they must tie a black tie on the spade. There have only been two black ties, and there is a lot of superstition around it because a member of each of those Classes died. During the whole year, too, the Class must wear black ties instead of their normal colors.
If the Class finds the spade, they can apply to get Senior privileges, like off-campus lunch. If they do not find the spade by October 31st, at that point they can continue searching but the Junior Class is also allowed to search for the spade. If the Junior Class finds it first, they receive Senior privileges.”
My informant feels like it is an interesting way to make the rising Seniors prove themselves, show that they have earned their spot as Seniors, which is why there is a black tie if you don’t find it, that is not what you want – you want to show you are clever enough to step up to the challenges set up by those before you.
The spade connects students of the Senior Class to a legacy. Covered in ribbons, the “ties” of older Classes, it links the Senior Class to years worth of alumnae. This spade also functions as a concrete moment in an otherwise liminal time: rising Seniors and graduating Seniors change identities here. The graduating Seniors become alumnae once the tree is planted, joining their Class to all the past Classes and their trees planted on campus. The rising Seniors, upon securing their tie on the spade, become part of the legacy as well, but must first earn the privilege to do so by finding it.