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School traditions

The school-leaving celebration (penkkarit & potkiaiset) and the newcomers’ party have long traditions going back for decades. Although the customs vary in different schools, the general idea has stayed more or less the same: The school-leavers make fun of the teachers (mostly benevolently), then the second year students «kick» them out of the school with their jeers and wicked songs. In the newcomers’ party the first-year students are accepted as the members of the student body by showing them that they are clearly of a «lower caste» than the second-year students. Among the traditional rites are e.g. taking a gulp of an unsavory drink, dressing up in funny clothes and performing some funny tasks. In the evening the second-year students — now the seniors — have a ball where they dress up in long evening dresses and suits and perform ballroom dances from the 18th to the 20th century. Also parents are invited to the ball. The well-rehearsed dances are a spectacular show to which self-made dresses bring a certain elegance. The girls look beautiful and the boys very handsome.

The school-leaving celebration has for two decades now included a play written by the school-leavers. The play is performed by the teachers and the school-leavers themselves. The plot of the play is often based on well-known fairy tales or soap operas seasoned with recent events at the school or the typical phrases the teachers have used. The setting has been, for example, a spacecraft, an Indian camp, an island of seduction, the cabin of the seven dwarfs, the Oscar gala or a prison. The headmaster and the class advisors often get the leading roles. In the spring 2005 the plot was based on the classical story of Cinderella. In addition to the play, the students design posters about their teachers during the last schoolweek.

Since 1987 the second-year students have organized a schooltrip abroad. The first trip was to East Berlin which at that time was still behind the iron curtain and thus offered extra excitement for the students. Later on, trips have been made e.g. to London, Vienna, Crete, Greece and Spain. One of the most memorable trips was perhaps to Rome in 2010 when an ash cloud from Iceland prevented them from flying home. Instead, the group was brought home by bus all through 10 countries. Despite the hardships, the spirits were high, and the  next year  a new group started to plan a new trip. The organization of a school trip requires a lot both from the teachers and the students but in exchange for that, the group gets plenty of unforgettable experiences.

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