Homecoming is a concept that does not really exist to such a great extent in the UK, it is a weekend where alumni of Queen’s wo graduated in certain years come back for the weekend for a reunion with their classmates and a getaway full of fun. It is essentially a weekend where they get to relive their University years. Traditionally, there are two weekends every year for graduates celebrating certain important anniversaries such as their 5th, 10th, 25th, 50th etc. Alumni who are not within those graduating years are encouraged to wait for their turn as it gets extremely busy over the weekend.
However, a few years back, events got very out of hand and due to the health and safety hazards posed by the events, homecoming has been cancelled for several years running . . . . until I came!!!!
Homecoming involves many traditions, one of the main ones being the American Football game at the Richardson Stadium that both students and alumni go to watch.
The tickets for this are always sold out and students have to queue at 6am to get their hands on a limited number of free tickets. I was lucky enough to get myself a ticket to the game and it definitely lived up to expectations – also, on a side note, Queen’s won the game with an impressive comeback!
Many of the other (best) traditions are exclusive to engineers (called the Applied Science department at Queens). The first is that all engineering frosh (freshers) are invited to a kegger (a house-party involving vast amounts of beer from kegs) hosted by their frecs (freshers reps), here they all get purpled (a legitimate verb meaning to dye your body purple) with chemical dye in a small paddling pool in the backyard.
During half-time, all the engineers at the game then storm the field, with all of the purpled frosh getting in the centre and all of the older engineers surrounding them. This year, the storming of the field had been banned due to the fact that in previous games the university had been fined for not being able to clear the field quickly enough. Barricades had therefore been put up to ensure this rule as obeyed – ha! As if!
At Queen’s there is also a tradition of having leather jackets for each subject and yeargroup which is worn to show loyalty to that group. All engineering frosh buy these jackets and have to dye them purple, then get them home without contact with the hand (i.e. kicking them home). This gives the jackets the battered look that is aimed for. To enhance this battered look, engineers practice the jacket slamming at all possible occasions and the storming of the field is one of these. The older engineers surround the frosh and smash their jackets around them. The storming involves singing and shouting many engineering songs/chants and general jolly behaviour.
The evacuating of the field was done in a somewhat orderly fashion – another thing you have to love about the Canadians, they do what is necessary for the benefit of the whole community. The field was eventually evacuated quite quickly, efficiently and safely. I’m pretty sure they will not try to enforce a ban again 🙂
The game was very enjoyable (despite the game being stopped about 10 times every minute due to the nature of American football), it would have been very difficult not to get into the Queen’s spirit!