Mountain Day is arguably one of the most difficult Berry traditions to explain to people unfamiliar with the Berry bubble. To outsiders, hundreds of students holding hands, walking up and down a hill, bringing pennies and singing the alma mater, all while family members and alumni watch from outside the roped off hillside, all seems a bit like a cult. It’s a safe bet that a majority of students have received this reaction when describing Mountain Day to people outside of the Berry community. The experience is truly something so unique that there is no better way of understanding its deeply rooted meaning than to actually participate in it. This exclusivity of tradition is just one aspect of the weekend which builds fellowship and identity throughout the Berry community. However, alongside the communal excitement and participation in Mountain Day, the grand march stirs conversation about the importance and significance of the tradition as a whole and its stagnant nature.
Out of the context of celebratory, cultural or holiday-oriented traditions, the word “tradition” holds an archaic association. This is especially apparent in a society which values the new, changing and most modern form of anything and everything we do. Our society has become so fast paced that it feels like holding onto something established a hundred years ago is counter cultural. With an expectation to always be on-top of the new and improved, valuing and participating in traditions bring about the question, “why?” Why is it, and how is it, that in a culture which places such emphasis on the new, we can maintain traditions? In those traditions also, where do we have authority to alter or adapt to the changing times?
For over 100 years, Berry students have dressed according to their gender, joined hands and marched up and down a hill, covered in sweat and all the while being eaten by ants. Since the beginning, Mountain Day hasn’t changed much. Mountain Day’s dress code is an incredibly binary tradition which reinforces gender stereotypes and expectations through the simple use of color. Some may view this as restrictive and narrowing in a society that has become more outspoken about its unwillingness to be placed in a box. After all these years, it’s hopeful that alterations could be made to Mountain Day while still maintaining the cultural significance of the tradition to the Berry community.
Just because traditions are rooted in history doesn’t, or shouldn’t, prevent them from being adaptive. With the passing of time traditions must be updated and remodeled in order to meet the changing culture’s needs and desires for the tradition, all the while holding onto their significance. At Berry, Mountain Day is a tradition which truly bonds Berry alumni, no matter the class year. This is evident through the class reunions which take place every year on Mountain Day, overlooking current students marching for the same purpose Berry students have marched for over a hundred years. The collective identity and respect of values that are emphasized through Mountain Day are integral parts of the tradition. However, it is possible to hold onto the true meaning of Mountain Day and also make alterations that diverge from the archaic gender binaries of the march. Whether that looks like changing the march colors or getting rid of the requirement to wear specific colors altogether, there are changes that could be made to make the march more in-line with the social strides which have been made in recent years.