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Wearing – and biting – styrofoam hats is one of many parts of the annual Hey Day festivities.

Credit: Biruk Tibebe

Penn has formed quite a few traditions in its nearly three centuries of existence. From midnight screams to outdoor concerts, there are plenty of opportunities each year for students to get involved in the Penn community and celebrate with their peers. 

Throwing Toast

Spectators have been throwing toast onto Franklin Field during football games since the late 1970s. (Photo from Kushol Gupta)

No alcohol, no problem. When Franklin Field banned alcohol in the 1970s, Penn students vowed to preserve their time-honored tradition of toasting and downing their drinks at the end of the third quarter of football games, a practice inspired by the song “Drink a Highball.” Students opted for a literal interpretation of proposing a “toast to dear old Penn” by throwing actual pieces of toast onto the field.

The tradition is still alive today, sometimes necessitating the use of a “toast zamboni” to remove the thousands of pieces of toast thrown onto the field.

Econ Scream

At midnight on the night before the first ECON 001 midterm, hundreds of freshmen gather on the Lower Quad balcony to let out a cathartic scream. Students enjoy loud music, dancing, and plenty of snacks as they transform their test-day jitters into a collective howl.

College senior Elena Hoffman explains what the Econ Scream means to a lot of students.

“For many students, the first ECON 001 midterm also happens to be their first college exam at Penn. I think the Econ Scream is a great way to remind other freshmen that they’re not going through this alone.”

Econ Scream in 2016. (File Photo)

College sophomore Bryce Nguyen enjoyed participating in the tradition when he was a freshman.

“I loved Econ Scream because having a freshman event in the Quad was such a great experience, and it was nice to take a quick study break and just go right outside my dorm and relax for a few minutes.”

Are you a new student? Check out some of our other stories designed just for you, from a list of the biggest controversies on campus last semester, to a guide on professors you should know before the first day of school. 

Glee Club Valentines

Each Valentine's Day, Penn Glee Club members split up into quartets and deliver singing valentines across campus. These musically inclined students spread messages of friendship and love through performances of barber shop classics between classes. All of the proceeds from last Valentine’s Day went toward funding free health screenings in medically underserved communities in Philadelphia.

Spring Fling 

Celebrated since the 1970s, this annual music festival held near the end of spring features carnival attractions, lots of food, performances by student groups, and a nighttime concert. 

Many view Fling as a time for Penn students to come together as a community and celebrate for the sake of celebrating.

Credit: Chase Sutton

The All-American Rejects headlined the 2018 Spring Fling concert.

R&B singer Miguel and rapper J.I.D performed at the concert this past spring. Students protested Miguel's performance because of a 2017 sexual assault allegation against the singer. The Social Planning and Events Committee, however, said they were unaware of the allegation when they booked Miguel, and stood by their choice.

Although Fling used to last two days and occur in the Quad, in 2018 the festivities were shortened to one day and moved to Penn Park. Some students were unhappy with this change. Wharton junior Gowtham Balaji felt that “Fling being moved [from the Quad] took the fun out of it being more compact and communal.”

Hey Day 

Hey Day marks the official “moving-up” in class ranks from junior to senior. Juniors parade down Locust Walk wearing matching red T-shirts, brandishing canes, and biting into styrofoam hats for this rite of passage, which has been celebrated since 1916.  

Hey Day in 2005. (File Photo)


Last spring, the Class Board of 2021 launched U-Night, Penn's newest tradition, to bring the sophomore class together. Sophomores received free t-shirts and lanterns and participated in a ceremony where they were asked to turn on the lanterns for symbolic milestones, such as meeting a professor they look up to or joining a student group that pushed them outside their comfort zone. Over 1000 sophomores attended the inaugural event, surpassing Class Board 2021's expectations. 

Credit: Emily Xu

Class Board 2021 led the lantern ceremony during the inaugural U-Night celebration.

“It’s a really cute tradition, [and] it’s fun that we get to be part of the first class to do it,” College junior Kelli Jackson said. “I think seeing the [questions] where everyone’s [lantern] was lit up was pretty cool.”