Among my friends at Lehigh, Celtic Classic is an annual tradition—or perhaps even a holiday.
When I was a freshman, I had never heard of Celtic Classic until a few upperclassman friends invited me to meet up and walk over to the festival. They kept mentioning how they had been looking forward to this day for months. I quickly realized the importance of the tradition—attending Celtic Classic on a Friday afternoon—but I had no idea why everyone was so excited. However, after spending the evening meeting new people and bonding with friends, I knew this would be a tradition for the rest of my time at Lehigh.
This year went the same as any other year. On Friday afternoon, the first day of the festival, some friends and I agreed to meet up on campus. We made sure to invite freshman we knew, welcoming them into our friend group as my friends had done with me. This practice ensures that the tradition will continue into the future. The dress code was green, ranging from Boston Celtics jerseys to Guinness t-shirts (and even socks). (I, unfortunately, forgot my green shirt, so excuse me for looking out of place in any photos.) We made our way toward the Route 378 bridge. Everybody was fired up, with chants of “Celtic Classic” echoing through the streets. Walking over the river, the large white tents of food vendors and music stages appeared, as well as the yellowish-green fields of the Highland Games. We had arrived.
“I’m ready to eat a giant turkey leg and drink a glass of Guinness,” says one of my senior friends. It was his customary practice at Celtic, and this year would be no different. It was five o’clock; I was hungry and, obviously, so were my friends. In the past, I had walked in the direction of Main Street to find food, usually getting a bowl of shepherd’s pie and a Gyro (I know, not very Irish). But last year, I realized in the opposite direction was a vendor that sold a combo plate of shepherd’s pie, Irish barbecue, and the famous haggis; I kicked myself for discovering this too late. This year was finally the time to try haggis. I know what it is, and it sounds pretty gross, but, hey, I’m a foodie and I knew people liked it for a reason. Two of my friends, a freshman I had just met, and I made a B-line for the Irish combo plate. After taking one bite, I knew I would be coming back next year for more. It’s too bad I only have one year left. Those who didn’t order haggis were curious how it tasted, and I was more than happy to share a bite.
This moment is a great example of one of my favorite traditions at Celtic Classic: sharing food. To me, we’re all friends, even if we’ve just met. I will absolutely give a friend a bite of my food, just to try, or in exchange for something they have. And if I don’t finish my plate, I know someone will. With a simple glance over to a friend, we both know we’re trading a piece of his turkey leg for a bite of my sticky pudding dessert.
After downing our food, we all gathered on the bleachers around the Highland Games Field. The schedule of events should have been better publicized, especially on Twitter, where I was looking. Luckily, one of my friends checked the website for the start time of the competitions. First up was the haggis eating competition, short-lived, but still entertaining. We chanted “eat the haggis” to cheer on the competitors.
RESULTS: Haggis Eating Contest Winners are
1st – Shane Killeen
2nd – Adrian Grieve
3rd – Sean Dempsey
— CelticClassic (@CelticClassic) September 23, 2016
Here’s an example of the official Celtic Classic Twitter. While they posted frequent updates and times for the events, the overall schedule for the day could have been clearer. I looked to Twitter because it’s generally much easier to navigate on my phone versus a website.
Next up, and most importantly, was the Caber Toss, easily everyone’s favorite event and the most exciting part of the day. I mean, who wouldn’t enjoy burly men in kilts tossing giant logs as far as they can? Now, in past years, I felt as if the organizers weren’t too keen on our attendance, as rowdy college kids. However, this year, they embraced us, giving the Lehigh student section multiple shout-outs over the PA system. We were the cheerleaders, the festival’s biggest fans for this event. We loudly chanted “Toss the Caber” as each contestant accelerates down the field to hurl the log. On particularly good throws, we throw our hands up in the air, scream, and give high-fives all around.
This is my first vine, so I apologize for the quality. Hopefully, you can hear the excitement in everyone’s cheers.
Here’s a longer, slightly better quality video with the “Toss the Caber” chant.
It was at this moment my freshman year when I realized what the Celtic Classic tradition was really all about: bonding with friends. I was fortunate that the students I knew then invited me along and welcomed me into their friend group; I felt truly included for the first time at Lehigh. As I looked around this year, the tradition of friendship was still alive and thriving. Everyone was smiling, laughing, eating food—from freshman to fifth-years. We were all rallying around the same cause—in this case, the caber toss. Celtic Classic has always been a day when I make new friends and grow closer to the ones I already have. Although I only have one more opportunity left, I wouldn’t miss it for the world. And I know my friends wouldn’t either; it’s far too important and fun to ever blow off.
Some great photos of my friends and I bonding
Here’s the part I have to admit, do we really care about the Celtic traditions: kilts, haggis, the caber toss, and Guinness? Probably not. But that’s okay! If the event instead was a heavy metal, chili, or cat & dog festival, it wouldn’t matter. My group of friends would still meet up and walk over the bridge, just as we do with Celtic Classic. We would still eat and share the food just as willingly and cheer on the competitors just as passionately. It’s not about what is there, but rather who; it’s about the bond we share as friends having a four-year tradition of spending an afternoon together. Our attendance of Celtic Classic is about making the most out of what the event has to offer.
For any Lehigh students out there, especially freshman, I implore you to start your own tradition you can continue for your four years at Lehigh—and beyond. Perhaps you go to Celtic Classic. I personally think it’s a blast; it’s close to campus and has good food and entertaining events. But it doesn’t matter where you go, as long as the event something which you and your friends can look forward to and get fired up. And as you become an upperclassman, make sure to invite new people into your group and have them join the tradition. They are the ones that will carry it on and make it truly remarkable. Stories of Celtic Classic have been passed down for years; your tradition should do the same. But no matter what you choose to do, make it fun, and make the most out of what the area has to offer. The memories of bonding with friends are the ones you will cherish forever.
If you would like to share your tradition or your favorite Celtic Classic memory, feel free to leave a comment below!