It’s the traditions and not the long hours studying BYU seniors remember most vividly as they prepare for the next stage of their lives.
From classic homecoming activities like “True Blue” football and lighting the Y, to newer traditions, BYU’s unique customs connect students of all ages through shared experiences.
“True Blue” football, a spin-off from the original mud football, is an enduring tradition — literally. After slipping and sliding in blue foam, participants leave Helaman Field with dyed skin as well as clothing that may never lose its blue tint. Andrew Ray, a senior majoring in neuroscience, said “True Blue” was always a welcome break from monotonous schoolwork.
“It usually coincided with a week where I had a few midterms,” Ray said. “It was always a blast because I would go with a big group of friends, and we would get some laughs and love it.”
Another memorable homecoming activity is hiking and lighting the Y. While originally the Y was lit up with kindling made of mattress stuffing, today light bulbs illuminate the unmistakable mountainside feature.
BYU graduating senior Katherine Beard said lighting the Y is a great way for students to get involved in something bigger than themselves.
“Each person is designated a light bulb,” Beard said. “There is a countdown, and then you’re all supposed to screw your light bulb in at the same time. It’s a great tradition and always reminds me of the scripture in Matthew that talks about being a light to the world and how ‘a city on a hill cannot be hid.'”
Ashton Habel, a graduating recreation management major, said she always put her own twist on the light the Y tradition.
“It’s lit up all week, so I don’t go up with everyone else,” Habel said. “When my friends and I go up, I always cover up one of the lights with my hands and then we call people we know and have them look up at the Y.”
Tunnel singing has been a favorite tradition since the early 90s when it was founded by a Deseret Towers resident assistant. During the event, students announce their mission calls and sing heartfelt renditions of Spanish and English hymns, amplified by the tunnel’s echoing acoustics. Exercise science major Matt Bell said tunnel singing is the perfect mixture of goofiness and seriousness.
“As the night goes on, it gets more spiritual — everyone sings, and it’s a little more serious,” Bell said. “At the end everyone is usually hugging each other.”
Heather Hammond, assistant dean of the Office of First-Year Experience, said BYU traditions continue to evolve and new ones are embraced.
“The most recent traditions that we’ve started are the Y Class Photo that we take at New Student Orientation in the fall,” Hammond said. “We also work with Dining Services to create a new flavor of ice cream for each freshman class. We started each of these traditions with the incoming class of 2011.”
Hammond said BYU’s traditions help people relate to each other, no matter their background.
“I think the most important thing about traditions is that they build community,” Hammond said. “They give students a common experience that they enjoy together — and can relate to older and younger generations. We have an awesome student body, but there are so many different backgrounds, especially since our student body comes from all over the world. It’s nice to have traditions that bring people together.”