Posts Tagged ‘Tradition’

Together with Guider Amanda (a Community Guider and Sparks Leader in Ottawa), I led a session about Ceremonies at the recent January Thaw Event (see Guider Training Days!) and I think it went well. Here are some of our notes.

What is a Ceremony? What kinds of ceremonies do we have in Guiding?

As Becky says in her blog: A ceremony is something a group does to make an ordinary event special, or to add significance to a special occasion. Read on here for Becky’s tips and wisdom on ceremonies.

Guiding has a lot of ceremonies. Some of them are the everyday ones like our Openings and Closings. And others are special like enrollments, advancements and Thinking Day ceremonies.

Traditional vs. non-traditional ceremonies

We set up our presentation as sort of a debate, with me standing up for why we should be doing more traditional ceremonies, and Amanda standing up for innovation, imagination and forward thinking.

In defense of tradition

  • The definition of tradition is the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation (Google).
  • Guiding is memorable…I meet many women who, when they found out I am a Guider, remember fondly the “tu-whit, tu-whit, tu-whoo”; ask if we still “twist me and turn me with the pond and stepping stones?”; or tell me about their Guider who made them practice a flag ceremony over and over and about how, when they got it, they were so proud. I want to give the girls today that sort of memory.

    A Jamaican Brownie Pack Enrollment

  • Pro – When we do the traditional ceremonies, the girls see us waving our Guiding flag. Guiding does things just a bit little differently and in order to become a member you need to learn how we do things.
  • Pro – girls will hopefully hear my enthusiasm for the traditions that are important to me.
  • Pro – we keep the magic of Guiding alive by honouring the past and looking to the future.
  • Con – tradition can be stodgy and not with the times. You may hear “not again!”.
  • Con – doing the same old thing is not tradition if you’re doing it “just because.” Sticking with tradition isn’t right if you’re unwilling to do something different because it is hard to change or because it might not work.

In defense of non-traditional ceremonies

  • Non-traditional doesn’t mean that you’re abandoning the purpose of the ceremony.
  • It gives you flexibility in your planning. For example, this fall badge sashes and ties were back ordered in the GGC store and it was uncertain whether or not they’d ship in time for enrollment… so Amanda’s unit did a Halloween enrollment ceremony. Can you imagine a Darth Vader with a Sparks sash? Hilarious, memorable, flexible, and it fit the day.

    Imagine this with a Sparks Sash. =)

  • By going with a non-traditional ceremony, it acknowledges that Girl Guides of Canada is changing with the times.
  • Younger girls benefit from non-traditional ceremonies – they experience a ceremony that they’re interested/engaged in.
  • Older girls are given the opportunity to practice their leadership and organizational skills because they get input.
  • Pro – Planning flexibility.
  • Pro – Can incorporate other badge challenge work or special events.
  • Pro – Inclusive for those girls and leaders who are new to Guiding and who aren’t as familiar with tradition.
  • Pro – Avoids the “we do it this way because that’s the way it has always been done”.
  • Pro – Starts a new tradition.
  • Con – can give too much freedom so that GGC values are not represented or the importance of the moment is lost.

In the end though, there is no wrong way to do it. And why not mix the two?

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Flag Ceremony – Thinking Day 2010

This is an updated version of my original post about Flag Ceremonies. The GirlGuidesCanBlog.ca asked if they could repost it for Remembrance Day and it appears there with a slightly different intro.  But both posts have the same instructions.

Two years ago our Brownie Unit decided to incorporate flag ceremonies into the Key to My Community program and we needed to know how to teach a basic one.

Thankfully, my former District Commissioner Margaret Bradford was able to fill in the gaps.  When she was a Brown Owl they had frequent flag ceremonies (so Brownies CAN do it) and she had lots of advice to offer (practice!).  She also loaned me a book called The Guider Handbook by the late Dorothy Crocker (1988 edition).  It is out of print, but is a very helpful resource (not just for flag ceremonies!) if you can get your hands on a copy.

Here’s how we introduce Flag Ceremonies in our unit

First, talk about what a colour party is and what the responsibility of each role is.

  • Colour: Flags are called Colours.
  • Colour Party: One colour bearer and two colour guards make up this colour party.  You can add guards in multiples of two.  Additional guards will follow the main party.
  • Colour Bearer (1 girl) –  The bearer stands in between the guards and carries the flag.  It is a privilege to carry the colours.  Since the bearer has the flag in front of her face, she depends on the caller to guide her.
  • Colour Guards (2 girls) –  Guards will march shoulder to shoulder with the flag bearer – one on her left, and one on her right.  Guards officially “guard the flag” but they also guide the bearer so she doesn’t walk into anything.
  • Caller – One of the Colour Guards will also be the Caller.  Her commands direct where the colour party will go.  (Pick an outgoing girl who can think on her feet for this position).
  • Leader – The leader (typically a Guider) will stay put in circle or horseshoe.  She will give commands to the colour party to get them started and to release them from their duties.
  • In addition: Flag respect is important – don’t let it touch the ground.  Don’t turn your back on the flag until final “Fall Out”

Next, practice… (without a flag).  

In colour party groups, have the girls march around (and around, and around!) the gym following the Simple Flag Ceremony Script below to get into a rhythm.  We want groups to walk together in formation.  They should be moving as one unit.   Once groups can demonstrate that they can work as one unit (and don’t be afraid to put them through their paces to make sure they get it right), they can try it with a real flag.


Simple Flag Ceremony Script  (print the one-pager here)


  • Flags should be placed or held “off stage”.  We use the meeting flags that are already on flag poles.
  • Flag stands should be placed in the front of the room (where you want the colour party to end up).
  • Colour party will start from wherever they are in the circle or horseshoe.


  • Leader: “Colour party fall out”
    Colour Party leaves the circle/horseshoe – one step forward, two steps back, then walk smartly to flag (around the outside).
  • Leader “Colour party fall in”
     Colour Bearer takes the flag, turns so she is facing the way she wants to start.
    Colour Guards position themselves, one on each side of the bearer (just touching, shoulder to shoulder with her).
    Colour PartyStand in position.  (Wait for Leader command).
  • Leader: “March on the Colours”
    Colour Party
    begins marching in place.

    This is the hardest part and they are tempted to march a couple of times and then jump forward.  Require that they get it right.  The goal is to get all three marching in step.  When they are in sync, one of the colour guards becomes the Caller.
  • Caller Commands move the colour party around the room.  The caller should be outgoing and prepared to say her lines loudly and in public.  Use whatever command suits your situation  – “Colour Party March”, “Colour Party Forward”, “Colour Party Stop”, “Colour Party Right Turn”, “Colour Party Left Turn”, etc.
     Colour Party makes their way to the flag stands.  When they arrive…
  • Caller: “Colour Party Stop (Halt)”
    Colour Bearer put flag in the stand.

    Colour Party step back.  Stand facing the flag.  Remain in this position until Leader gives “Fall Out” command.
    If the National Anthem is sung, colour party stays in position during anthem, facing the flag.  They should NOT  sing the anthem.
  • Leader: “Colour party fall out”.
    Colour party takes one step forward, two steps back, then they walk back to their place in circle/horseshoe.
  • Flag Ceremony Complete.

Here’s a link to our original Flag Ceremony meeting – Key to my Community: Proud to Be Canadian; Our Flag and Our National Anthem.

Sources: Notes from Margaret Bradford (Nov 2010) and The Guider Handbook by Dorothy Crocker (1988 edition) .

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I am Brown Owl for the 119th Ottawa Brownies in Ottawa Canada – we also have a Snowy Owl, Starry Owl, and Spotty Owl.  We currently follow the Girl Guides of Canada Brownie Program and, as most of our ideas come from online and are documented electronically, I thought it would be cool to be a resource for other Brownie Guiders. And if nothing else, I’ll know where I got stuff from, when we need it again.

We are traditional Brownie Guiders.  Our team is fantastic – we’re quite structured in our approach to our unit management.  Planning ahead of time is the key to success for us.  I’m a planner at heart – but Snowy Owl makes me write it down – and for that I’m very thankful. 

A basic meeting for us looks like this:

  • 6:30 Arrival Game or Craft
  • 6:40 Brownie Circles – Inspections, attendance, etc.
  • 6:50 Call to Circle
    “Brownies Brownies, where are you?”
    Circle Openings
    Brownie Opening Song
    Brownie Promise
  • 7:00 Program
  • 7:20ish Game (usually a running game to get the sillies out)
  • 7:30ish Craft or other activity
  • 7:45ish Campfire then closing at 7:55

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