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Year after year, Princeton students recreate the antics of their predecessors

Though renowned as a place where traditions die hard, several of Princeton's most famous — or infamous — rituals have met their ends as of late.

The Nude Olympics were banned. Cane wrestling has new rules that make it something less than the muddy free-for-all it once was. And there hasn't been a bonfire on Cannon Green in half a decade.


Still, Princeton is a place known for its traditions, and there are some left, in one form or another. Here's a sample:

Cane Spree

The climax of this annual series of athletic events between freshmen and sophomores is cane wrestling. Until a student was injured four years ago, cane wrestling was a brutal brawl in which participants used any method to wrest a wooden cane from their opponent's grip. Grabbing the head, limbs or groin of the enemy were among the more polite methods. After the injury, however, the rules were changed to make cane wrestling a little more civilized. Also that year, the most sacred rule of the event was broken: For the first time in history, the freshmen won.


A tradition until 1991 when officials removed the Nassau Hall bell clapper indefinitely after a student fell off the building trying to claim the prize. Three years ago, a group of freshmen claimed to have stolen the clapper and revived the tradition, though the circumstances surrounding their "success" were more than a little suspicious.

Bonfires on Cannon Green

When Princeton beats both Harvard and Yale in football — claiming the unofficial "Big Three" championship — students build a bonfire, complete with a wooden outhouse, on Cannon Green to celebrate.

For the past few Novembers, however, the Green has been calm. Princeton has not won the Big Three contest since 1994.

The Drag Kickline

If the Rockette-esque dancers you see in the Triangle Club's annual spring show look like they need a shave, they probably do. The all-male drag kickline is an eyeopener in each of the musical theater group's productions.

Nude Olympics


The first major snowfall of the year has for about 25 years raised more than just students' spirits. It has also been the time for the annual Nude Olympics, originally a series of impromptu sporting events performed by sophomores completely in the buff. In its later years, the Olympics became simply a nude romp around Holder courtyard.

Four years ago, however, El Niño prevented sophomores from upholding the tradition. In January 1999, the classes of 2000 and 2001 bared the necessities together, and the event turned into a fest of drunken debauchery.

The powers-that-be did not like what they saw, and President Shapiro ordered an end to the tradition. Two years ago, only one daring student braved a run. Anyone caught participating will be suspended for one year.

Houseparties Weekend

On the weekend immediately following the end of spring semester classes, all 11 eating clubs hold Houseparties — a sort of extended prom. At most clubs, formal dress is required Friday night, normally followed by a semi-formal affair Saturday. Music and beer emanate from Prospect Avenue on Sunday, as Lawnparties bring the weekend to a close.

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As for freshmen, first-year women likely will get to attend these events in the arms of a dreamy — or desperate — upperclass guy, thanks to Princeton's still-skewed gender ratio. First-year guys, however, should seek other entertainment for the weekend, such as Tiddlywinks or Twister.


After students take off for the summer, alumni descend on the campus in waves of orange and black. The three-day festival — which festoons the campus with acre-sized tarps, banners and intoxicated ex-Tigers — unites graying alums with sprightly undergrads.

Rumor has it that Reunions generates the largest single beer order in the country, now that the Indianapolis 500 has gone dry. The administration, however, has been taking steps to curb the flow of alcohol at the event.

Alma Mater

No one can sing it in key, but everyone tries anyway — at arch sings, basketball games and Triangle shows. Here's what you have to know: Tune ev'ry heart and ev'ry voice Bid ev'ry care withdraw Let all with one accord rejoice In praise of Old Nassau In praise of Old Nassau we sing Hurrah, hurrah, hurrah Our hearts will give While we shall live Three cheers for Old Nassau.

You'll learn it well during Orientation Week, complete with the hat-tipping gestures that Princetonians have been performing for years. But even this venerable tradition has had to adapt to the times: A few years ago, the lyrics were changed to become gender-inclusive.

Bricks, virgins and Cleveland Tower

Legend has it that a brick falls from the Graduate College's Cleveland Tower for every student who graduates from Princeton still a virgin.

Of course, after 86 years, the tower is still standing as tall as the day it was built.