Girl Scout Traditions, Celebrations, and Ceremonies
Throughout the long history of Girl Scouts, certain traditions remain meaningful and important and are still practiced today. This section gives you an overview of annual celebrations in the Girl Scout year, as well as other revered Girl Scout traditions. Be sure to look in The Girl’s Guide to Girl Scouting and Leadership Journeys for more information on songs, outdoor activities, historical anecdotes, traditions, and ceremonies.
Girl Scout Calendar
Girl Scouts celebrate several special days each year, which you’re encouraged to include in your group planning.
- February 22: World Thinking Day (the birthday of both Lord Baden-Powell and Lady Olave Baden-Powell, the originators of Boy Scouts and the Scouting Movement worldwide).
- March 12: The birthday of Girl Scouting in the USA. The first troop meeting was held in Savannah, Georgia, on this date in 1912. Note that Girl Scout Week begins the Sunday before March 12 (a day known as “Girl Scout Sunday”) and extends through the Saturday following March 12 (a day known as “Girl Scout Sabbath”).
- April: Volunteer Appreciation Week centers on the long-standing National Girl Scout Leaders’ Day (April 22), but expands the definition of volunteers beyond troop leaders to include all the volunteers who work in so many ways on behalf of girls in Girl Scouting.
- October 31: Founder’s Day (Juliette Gordon Low’s birthday). Often celebrated by troops and Communities with a birthday party with gifts of troop supplies or gifts to benefit a cause the girls have agreed upon in advance.
Ceremonies play an important part in Girl Scouts and are used not only to celebrate accomplishments, experience time-honored traditions, and reinforce the values of the Girl Scout Promise and Law, but also to encourage girls to take a short pause in their busy lives and connect with their fellow Girl Scouts in fun and meaningful ways. Many examples of ceremonies—for awards, meeting openings and closings, and so on—are woven right into the Journeys, including ideas for new ceremonies girls can create.
Girls use ceremonies for all sorts of reasons. Here’s a brief list, in alphabetical order, so that you can become familiar with the most common Girl Scout ceremonies:
- Bridging ceremonies mark a girl’s move from one grade level of Girl Scouting to another, such as from Junior to Cadette. (Note that Fly-Up is a special bridging ceremony for Girl Scout Brownies who are bridging to Juniors.)
- Closing ceremonies finalize the meeting, with expectations for the next. A closing ceremony may be as simple as a hand squeeze while standing in a circle.
- Court of Awards is a time to recognize girls who have accomplished something spectacular during the Girl Scout year.
- Flag ceremonies can be part of any activity that honors the American flag.
- Highest Award ceremonies honor Girl Scout Juniors who have earned the Girl Scout Bronze Award, Cadettes who have earned the Silver Award or Seniors or Ambassadors who have earned the Gold Award. They are usually held for a group and combined with council recognition.
- Girl Scouts’ Own is a girl-led program that allows girls to explore their feelings and beliefs around a topic such as the importance of friendship or the personal meaning they get from the Girl Scout Promise and Law, using spoken word, favorite songs, poetry, or other methods of expression. It is never a religious ceremony.
- Investiture welcomes new members, girls or volunteers, into the Girl Scout family for the first time. Girls receive their Girl Scout, Brownie Girl Scout, or Daisy Girl Scout pin at this time.
- Opening ceremonies start troop meetings and can also begin other group meetings.
- Pinning ceremonies help celebrate when girls receive grade-level Girl Scout pins.
- Rededication ceremonies are opportunities for girls and volunteers to renew their commitment to the Girl Scout Promise and Law.
Signs, Songs, Handshake, and More!
Over time, any organization is going to develop a few common signals that everyone understands. Such is the case with Girl Scouts, which has developed a few unique ways to greet, acknowledge, and communicate, some of which are listed here.
Girl Scout Sign
The idea of the sign came from the days of chivalry, when armed knights greeted friendly knights by raising the right hand, palm open, as a sign of friendship. To give the sign, raise the three middle fingers of the right-hand palm forward and shoulder high (the three extended fingers represent the three parts of the Girl Scout Promise). Girls give the sign when they:
- Say the Promise or Law.
- Are welcomed into Girl Scouts at an investiture ceremony that welcomes new members.
- Receive an award, patch, pin, or other recognition.
- Greet other Girl Scouts and Girl Guides.
Girl Scout Handshake
The handshake is a more formal way of greeting other Girl Scouts, and is also an appropriate way to receive an award. Shake left hands and give the Girl Scout Sign with your right hand.
The quiet sign can be extremely useful to you as a volunteer, so teach it to girls during your first meeting. Raise your right hand high with an open palm. As girls in the group see the sign, they stop talking and also raise their hands. Once everyone is silent, the meeting can begin.
Girl Scout Slogan and Motto
The Girl Scout slogan is, “Do a good turn daily.” The Girl Scout motto is, “Be prepared.”
Whether singing around a campfire or joining a chorus of voices on the Mall in Washington, D.C., Girl Scouts have always enjoyed the fun and fellowship of music. In fact, the first Girl Scout Song Book, a collection of songs put together by girl members, was published in 1925.
Songs can be used to open or close meetings, enhance ceremonies, lighten a load while hiking, or share a special moment with other Girl Scouts. For tips on choosing and leading songs, go to http://gsuniversity.girlscouts.org/resource/song-leading-workshops/. A variety of songbooks are also available for purchase. Check out your council shop.