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Penn students march down Locust Walk to College Hall during Hey Day on April 28.

Credit: Samantha Turner

Throughout their four years at Penn, students can expect to take part in several annual traditions, many of which are geared toward first years. 

Here’s an overview of events that have cemented themselves as Quaker traditions. 


As the first major event of the year, Convocation is a formal welcome ceremony for first-year and transfer students. Typically held on College Green the evening before the first day of classes, Convocation for the Class of 2027 will be held at Franklin Field on Aug. 28 due to ongoing campus construction.

Class photo

During New Student Orientation, first years gather on Franklin Field to form the numbers of their class year while wearing their class T-shirts. 

Normally taken during the daytime, the class photo for the Class of 2027 will be taken on Aug. 25 from 8 to 10 p.m. with a new “Friday Night Lights” theme.

Philadelphia Museum of Art gala

This annual tradition gives new students exclusive and free after-hours access to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Shuttle buses transport students to the venue, where they can explore the collections of international art, enjoy catered dinner, and dance with classmates. 

Student Performing Arts Night 

Student performing arts groups — with performances including a cappella, spoken word, and dance — host their own shows throughout the year, but come together for a large performance at the start of the year.

More than 50 groups will perform at Student Performing Arts Night on Aug. 31 at 7 p.m. in a joint showcase held at the Zellerbach Theatre in the Annenberg Center. Each group will perform for five to seven minutes, and students have the opportunity to chat with performers afterward.

Econ Scream

On the night before the first ECON 0100 midterm exam, students gather in the Quad to let out a scream at midnight. The event, typically organized by the Class Board for the first-year class, invites students to eat snacks and dance to release exam anxiety.

Homecoming and tree planting 

Arguably the biggest Penn football game of the year, Homecoming is an opportunity for both alumni and current students to express their school spirit. Prior to the game — this year, against Cornell on Nov. 4 — the Penn Band marches through campus, and a tree planting ceremony is held on College Green with a tree chosen by the first-year class.

Throwing toast

One of Penn’s most well-known traditions, the act of throwing pieces of toast originated after the University banned alcohol at Franklin Field in the 1970s. Prior to this, students toasted and downed drinks after the third quarter of the Homecoming football game, when the band traditionally performs “Drink a Highball.” Today, when the band gets to the line “Here’s a toast to dear old Penn,” students throw pieces of toast onto the playing field.

Spring Fling

Since the 1970s, Penn has held a music festival for students with performing acts, plenty of food, and other attractions. Traditionally held in the Quad, Spring Fling was moved to Penn Park in 2018. 

Last spring, students had the opportunity to see Lauv as the headliner and Lil Tjay as the opening act. 


One of Penn’s newest traditions, U-Night was started in 2019 to celebrate the end of sophomore year and to mark students’ halfway point of college. Its signature lantern ceremony intends to spark a sense of unity among students.

Hey Day

Dating back to 1916, Hey Day marks students’ transition from junior to senior year. Students march down Locust Walk with red shirts, mahogany canes, and boater hats. Traditionally made of styrofoam — which allowed students to take bites out of the hats — a manufacturing change forced a shift to plastic hats in 2022.