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College traditions

From practical jokes to academic gowns, the traditions at King's root undergraduates in the web of shared experiences that flavour the history of our college.

Faculty & Students in President's LodgeAsk any member of the King's community what sets this university apart, and, after its small size and the integrated, interdisciplinary experience, the reasons will undoubtedly land on the rich traditions that season the college's character. You'll hear about Frivols at College Christmas, the week of Encaenia festivities at graduation and the Young Alexandra Society Ball. You'll hear about donning academic gowns for Formal Meal, Matriculation and chapel, and about heading out into the night for ghost tours and water fights. You'll hear about theatre productions, sock hops and sherry in the President's Lodge.

Many of the traditions at King's have grown out of the residential collegiate life that characterized Oxford, upon which the college was modeled. Professors lived among students and dons were members of the faculty, and this close proximity had a profound impact on the culture of King's. The historic relationship with the Anglican Church also shaped many traditions at the college and other traditions, like Matriculation, have been created in the style of the older activities that inspired them. And, of course, King's students have spawned their own traditions, which are part of what makes King's unique.

Here are some King's traditions:

April Fool's Day Water Fight

When the clock strikes midnight for 1 April, any King's student caught out in the quad can expect to be soaked—or should start running. Armed with water balloons and squirt guns, the students of the college engage in a full-blown campus-wide water fight, all under the cover of darkness. The April Fool's event yields shrieks and snickers and dozens upon dozens of drenched students. In recent years, the chair of Bays and president of Alex Hall have taken a large part in organizing the event, pitting Alex Hall against the Bays.





 Big Night

Bringing together students, faculty and staff to share their artistic (and sometimes, not-so-artistic) gifts with each other, Big Night is the college's annual exhibition of campus talent. The night was spearheaded in 2002 by then dean of residence, Kelley Castle, with the idea of creating an additional venue in which the college could come together and in which talented King's people could showcase their talents. Featuring musicians, dancers, and artists of every sort, Big Night has proven more and more successful each year.

 Classics in the Quad

An annual performance held in the King's Quad on the library steps, Classics in the Quad ties students, the curriculum and community together. Drawing on the tragedies students study in the Foundation Year Programme, the play performed must be a piece of Greek theatre from the classical period and it must be approached as a period piece. First year students are given preference for the roles, helping to ensure a new crop of talent for the King's Theatrical Society. The rehearsals and performance take place outside. Scheduling is at the mercy of the weather and sundown, but the natural light and beautiful setting of the quad--and an appreciative audience--make make it all worthwhile.

 College Christmas

Typically held on Advent Sunday, the first of four Sundays before Christmas, College Christmas is an annual tradition brings the holiday spirit to campus. Festivities start with brunch in Prince Hall, are followed by  essons and Carols in the King's Chapel, and continue onto the President's Lodge for a Christmas reception. The day ends with with Frivols, a Haliburton Society-hosted event of Christmas readings and music by candlelight when mulled wine, cider and dainties are served to a group of eagerly listening students, faculty, and other members of the King's community.

 Formal Meal

From the earliest days of the college, residence students have gathered to eat the main meal of the day together in a formal setting. Much like today, the students all wore academic gowns and heard traditional Latin graces, and etiquette rules were put in place. These basic, simple formalities of Formal Meal at King's have remained relatively unchanged for 200 years, with 150 of those maintaining the once-a-day schedule. After 1972, though, the meal was held only once a week for two decades, then twice a month from 1993 to2001.

Since 2003, Formal Meal has been held monthly, beginning at 6:00 PM, and provides an opportunity for staff and students to dine together and listen to  guest speakers, typically alumni or fellow professors. Attendees wear their academic gowns, and etiquette requires students stand until the head table arrives and the Latin grace has been said, as well as ask permission from the president if an early leave before formal dismissal is necessary. The gowns, the grace, and the ritual become familiar territory for King's students and alumni, an essential part of what it means to be part of the King's community.


FYP Final Lecture

The final lecture of the Foundation Year Programme provides a ritual close to the academic year, and is followed by a reception to which all the programme coordinators, associate fellows, Inglis professors and key members of the King's community are invited. The lecture itself is delivered by an individual the Foundation Year Programme wants to honour in some way, such as a retiring or retired professor, or a long-time contributor. The lecturer doesn't speak on a topic that belongs to the curriculum, but instead provides an overview, offering students a new perspective on his or her FYP experience.

Ghost Tours

Some believe that the King's College campus is host to its fair share of strange happenings and perturbed spirits. One night during Frosh Week, a few brave frosh leaders who have had first-hand experience with such supernatural activities, meet at the flagpole at midnight to lead new students on a tour of the haunted corners of King's. Each of the residence buildings has its own stories, some of which date back to before the fire that ravaged the college in 1920, when it was located in Windsor, Nova Scotia. Even to the sceptical, the Ghost Tour experience is peculiar, to say the least.


During the 19th and 20th centuries, a student wishing to study at King's had to pass a Matriculation Exam. Subjects included Latin, Greek, French or German, mathematics and English. In addition to writing the exams, the candidate had to present a certificate of good moral conduct extending over a period of not less than 18 months prior to the exam.

Once candidates had fulfilled these criteria, they were welcomed as members of King's and their names were entered in the register, or Matricula (the college's first Matricula dates back to 1803). Alongside the names were written the students' age, place of birth, secondary education, father's name, residence, and occupation. The Matricula can be viewed on the lower level of the Library.

Today's Matriculation ceremony, instituted in its present form during the 1980s, formally makes new students members of King's. Dressed in the college's traditional academic gowns, students inscribe their names in the Matricula, symbolically joining the community of thousands of King's men and women who came before them.