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 227 years of history as Canada’s oldest chartered university, King’s loves to celebrate traditions, old and new.
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 given way to English). Read more about Encaenia.
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 Programme, 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.
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.
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.
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.
Typically held on Advent Sunday, College Christmas brings the holiday spirit to campus. Festivities start with brunch in Prince Hall, followed by lessons and carols in the King’s Chapel, and continue with a Christmas reception in the President’s Lodge. The day ends with with Frivols, a Haliburton Society-hosted event of Christmas readings and music by candlelight, as mulled wine, cider and dainties are served.
The final lecture of the Foundation Year Programme provides a ritual close to the academic year, followed by a reception.
Some believe the King’s College campus is host to strange happenings and perturbed spirits. Meet frosh leaders at the flagpole at midnight for a tour of the haunted corners of King’s. Each of the residence buildings has its own stories, some of which date back to before the fire that ravaged the college in 1920 when it was located in Windsor, Nova Scotia.