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Many of the traditions at King’s have grown out of the residential collegiate life that characterized Oxford, upon which we were modelled. Students, dons, deans and the President live together on campus, and this close proximity has a profound impact on the culture of King’s. With over 230 years of history as Canada’s oldest chartered university, King’s loves to celebrate traditions, old and new.
During the 19th and 20th centuries, a student wishing to study at King’s had to pass a Matriculation exam and present a certificate of good moral conduct. Once candidates 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). Today’s Matriculation ceremony 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. The Matricula can be viewed on the lower level of the Library.
The 2023 ceremonies
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 Program, a piece of Greek theatre is performed. First year students get 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.
Students, faculty and staff share their artistic (and sometimes, not-so-artistic) gifts with each other at Big Night, the college’s annual exhibition of campus talent. The event features musicians, dancers, and artists.
Once a year the King’s president hosts a group hike in a wilderness area near the city. Not only will you be transported out of the Quad and into the woods, you’ll enjoy a picnic lunch and a talk by a guest speaker.
The President hosts an annual skating party at the Oval on the Halifax Commons for King’s students and friends. Afterward, everyone is invited back to the President’s Lodge for hot drinks and snacks.
When the clock strikes midnight on April 1, 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, students engage in a full-blown, campus-wide water fight, all under the cover of darkness.
About once a month, students are invited to connect with an accomplished King’s alum over lunch in the Boardroom. Six to eight students join the president for a light meal and conversation with someone who will inspire them. Learn more.
Since 2011, King’s has hosted the Alex Fountain Memorial Lecture. Through a balloting process, the King’s student body is invited to choose the guest speaker they’d like to bring to campus. Past lecturers have included Tanya Tagaq, Miriam Toews, and Michael Ondaatje — speakers who have challenged, provoked and delighted students.
In the earliest days of the college, residence students gathered to eat the main meal of the day in a formal setting. Much like today, the students all wore academic gowns and heard traditional Latin graces, and etiquette rules were in place. These basic, simple formalities have remained relatively unchanged for some 200 years.
Formal Meal is held monthly, providing an opportunity for staff and students to dine together and listen to guest speakers. Attendees wear their academic gowns, and students stand until the head table arrives and the Latin grace has been said. The gowns, the grace, and the ritual have become familiar territory for King’s students and alumni; an essential part of what it means to be part of the King’s community.
The final lecture of the Foundation Year Program provides a ritualistic close to the academic year, followed by a reception.
Encaenia is a Greek word meaning “beginning, commencement,” and the term has been used since the founding of King’s in 1789 for the ceremony where academic and honorary degrees are conferred. The King’s graduation ceremony has not changed greatly over the years apart from the conferring of honorary degrees (although the use of Latin has mostly given way to English). Read more about Encaenia.