Salem, founded in 1772, is proud of its many traditions and offers students numerous opportunities during the year to take part in these. While many traditions are optional, participating in them can make your college life an even richer, deeper experience while you are here. You will enjoy knowing that you, too, are part of a long line of strong, confident women who value and celebrate tradition.

At the same time, Salem students continue to bring new customs and festivals to our campus. We look forward to seeing what you will bring to enhance our campus life!

Here are the traditions and the time during the academic calendar when they typically occur:

Candlelight Walk to God’s Acre (Orientation Weekend)

First-year students, along with orientation leaders and the College president, make a candlelight walk into God’s Acre to the grave of Sister Elizabeth Oesterlein, the first teacher at Salem Academy and College, for a brief ceremony and an introduction to the history of the College. This walk is the first ceremonial “walk” the students take to begin their time at Salem. It occurs again on Founders Day of their senior year to conclude their experience at Salem.

Opening Convocation (August)

Formal opening ceremony for the academic year. Held in Hanes Auditorium. Classes process to the ceremony behind their class banners. Seniors wear caps and gowns and traditionally wear funny or outrageous shoes. Nice dress is encouraged.

Required for all traditional-age (under 23) students.

Fall Lawn Party (September)

First student party of the academic year. Usually held on a Saturday in September in the May Dell and Bryant Hall patio area. Casual attire.

Big Sis/Lil Sis (September)

First-year students receive junior “Big Sisters” the day before Fall Fest. Big Sisters serve to introduce their Little Sisters to life at Salem.

Fall Fest (September)

This day of competition between the classes begins with a breakfast spirit rally and theme decorating contest in the Refectory. It continues with a parade contest at the athletic fields and concludes with a song and skit extravaganza in Hanes Auditorium. Truly a celebration of spirit and sisterhood! Listen for the cheering to begin in early fall. Classes are cancelled for the day so all may participate.

Family Weekend (October/November)

Students’ families come to campus for a fun weekend of social events and programs with faculty and staff, ending with a traditional Moravian Lovefeast on Sunday morning and a delicious Salem Sunday Brunch. Typically held late October/early November.

Candle Trimming (November)

Students gather to trim candles for the Christmastide Moravian Candlelight Service in December.

Christmastide Moravian Candlelight Service (December)

A winter holiday tradition and ceremony for the entire Salem College community. Music program held in Hanes Auditorium, ending with the lighting of Moravian candles. Open to the public. Nice dress is encouraged.

Christmas Dinner (December)

On the Monday before exams begin, faculty and staff traditionally serve the students a family-style holiday dinner. Nice dress is encouraged.

Senior Gathering

For all non-traditional-age seniors in the Rondthaler-Gramley House

Sophomore/Senior Banquet (April)

A Salem tradition whereby the Sophomore Class hosts a special dinner, followed by a program to honor their Big Sisters. Nice dress is encouraged.

Founders Day Convocation (April)

Celebration in honor of Elizabeth Oesterlein, Salem Academy and College’s first teacher. Seniors wear graduation gowns and sunglasses and march to the Convocation in the May Dell (Hanes Auditorium in case of rain). Sophomore Class processes ahead of their sister class. Nice dress is encouraged.

Required for all traditional-age (under 23) students.

Senior Walk to God’s Acre (April)

Seniors robe and meet early the morning of Founders Day on the steps of Main Hall. Seniors process with the president, chaplain, and deans to Sister Oesterlein’s grave in God’s Acre and place a flower on her gravestone. Afterward, the seniors plant a class tree somewhere on campus with each senior being allowed to add a personal memento as the ground is being replaced around the tree. A special breakfast is served in the Refectory.

Spring Celebration of Academic Excellence (April)

The annual celebration showcases student work across the disciplines and new faculty research. Classes are cancelled this day so that students, faculty, and staff may attend these important and thought-provoking panels, performances, and presentations spotlighting undergraduate excellence.

Required for all traditional-age (under 23) students.

Leadership Banquet (April)

As part of the Celebration of Academic Excellence, an awards banquet is held in the Refectory at which time students are honored for outstanding achievement in the areas of leadership, scholarship, and service. The SGA Executive Board for the next academic year will be introduced, and the SGA president-elect makes her first official remarks in a tribute speech to the outgoing board. All students, including Fleer students, are welcome.

Honors Convocation (May)

Ceremony marking the formal end of the academic year held in Hanes Auditorium on the last day of classes. Seniors wear graduation robes and funny or outrageous hats. Awards are given for academic achievement. Classes process to the ceremony behind their class banners. Nice dress is encouraged.

Required for all traditional-age (under 23) students.

Senior Commencement Weekend (May)

Back Porch Party

Given by Fleer juniors for all graduating seniors on the afternoon of the last day of exams. Women wear garden party dresses and hats. The party includes champagne and a wonderful spread of hors d’oeuvres.

Senior Lovefeast

Held at Home Moravian Church on Thursday afternoon before Commencement. Seniors do not wear robes for this event. Nice dress is encouraged.


Special service held at Home Moravian Church on Friday evening before Commencement for graduates, families, and guests. Graduates robe for the baccalaureate service. The president’s reception is held immediately following the service.


Held in the LJVM Coliseum on Saturday morning. Graduates robe and process carrying daisies. A champagne brunch is held afterward in the Refectory and lower pleasure grounds for seniors, families, and guests.