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A few years back I was at a summer camp round table session and one of the camp pros told us that they did a camp name ceremony at the beginning of each summer. I was intrigued. Up until then we let new staff (and C.I.T.s) choose their camp name and then tell the rest of the staff what it is. That was it. This is the way it was done at two previous camps I worked at as well. I suspect this is the norm.
But then the idea of a camp name ceremony was introduced and the possibilities excited me. After a couple of years of tweaking, this is how our ceremony takes place.
A week before our training begins, staff and C.I.T.s are given a list of over
350 500 camp names that they can choose from along with a list of camp names that are already taken. They also have the option of creating their own camp name (which is usually what they end up doing).
Just before the camp name ceremony all new staff and all C.I.T.s are taken outside for some team building, while some of the return staff decorate the ceremony room.
A few of the return staff and directors place candles around the room and light them, begin playing Gregorian Chant music (or something similar) and put on cloaks (that we use from our Harry Potter camp). The idea is to make it feel like a secret society initiation/ceremony. (Update: Based on the suggestion of a return staff member, we started marking lines underneath one eye using face paint. Each line represented one year. This showed how many years return staff had been working there.)
After their team-building session the new staff and C.I.T.s are taken to a separate room and told that they will be announcing their new camp names. They are also informed that they will be going into the next room individually…and blindfolded.
All return staff, except for the two that stay with the new staff and C.I.T.s, go into the “camp name ceremony room” with the cloaked staff, sit down and wait. So basically we have 4-5 staff that are cloaked and the rest are not.
The first new staff person is brought into the room blindfolded and is led up to the cloaked (and hooded) staff. The director (or whomever is in charge of the ceremony) asks the new staff person what they would like their camp name to be and what the significance of the name is.
The return staff gives either a thumbs up or a thumbs down.
Thumbs Up – If the majority of the staff gives a thumbs up, the leader will ask the new staff person to kneel and then take off his/her blindfold. The leader then christens them with the new name. It’s like a knighting. The leader will say something like, “From here on out you will be known as Otter. Rise.” Then the staff applaud and congratulate “Otter”. They are then given their staff shirt and tree cookie name tag.
Thumbs Down (rarely happens) – If a majority of the staff give a thumbs down the new staff person is informed that the name was not accepted. They are then led out of the room (still blindfolded) and back to the waiting room. After they leave, the return staff brainstorm 3 or 4 camp name suggestions that are then taken to the new staff person in the waiting room. They can choose one of those names or try another one they came up with. When they are ready they are led back into the ceremony room to try again. If their name is not accepted again then they must choose one of the suggested names.
Names that get the thumbs down are generally things like “Becky” being used instead of Rebecca, or someone who is drinking Dr. Pepper wanting the camp name “Dr. Pepper” because they can’t think of anything else, or a name that can be considered inappropriate in some way. Usually every name gets the thumbs up. But simply having people vote on the names gives everyone that buy-in. They like the fact that they had some say in the process of it all. Does that make sense?
After taking off their blindfold, they are given their name tag (a wooden tree cookie with their camp name written on it), their staff shirts and their staff bead.
It’s fun to see the looks of the new staff and C.I.T.s when they take off their blindfolds to see a dark room lit by candles and cloaked figures standing in front. It makes it a real special event.
Do you do any type of camp name ceremony, or do you have any ideas that might enhance a ceremony?