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Virginia Postrel

Why Goofy Princeton Reunion Rituals Mean So Much to Me

Silly clothes and eccentric traditions link the past to the present and future and build unity and continuity in an era of polarization and change.

There’s more to it than hijinks.

There’s more to it than hijinks.

Photographer: Beverly Schaefer

It’s Reunions Weekend at Princeton University and there’s no reunion quite like a Princeton reunion. As many as 30,000 people descend on the small New Jersey town, filling every hotel and Airbnb in the area and spilling into dorm rooms at nearby schools. They catch up with old friends and meet new ones. They eat, drink and dance. They go to faculty lectures and alumni panels. They show off their kids and talk about their work. They oooh and ahhh at fireworks.

These are all perfectly normal reunion activities. They could happen anywhere. What makes Princeton reunions distinctive is their mastery of ritual, heritage and myth — all wrapped in ridiculous orange and black.