Three traditional CMU celebrations merge: Cèilidh Weekend

Credit: Celia Ludwinski/Operations Manager Credit: Celia Ludwinski/Operations Manager Credit: Celia Ludwinski/Operations Manager Credit: Celia Ludwinski/Operations Manager

Cèilidh Weekend, which draws its name from the Scottish Gaelic word meaning “visit,” is “a celebration for the entire Carnegie Mellon family, combining the traditions of Homecoming Weekend, International Festival and Family Weekend,” according to Carnegie Mellon’s website. Traditionally, a cèilidh (pronounced kay-lee) is a party hosted in the homes of family and friends, characterized by music, dancing, and storytelling.

“We selected the Scottish Gaelic word cèilidh because it represents a traditional social gathering and pays tribute to our founder’s heritage,” said Dan Barnett, director of on-campus programs for Alumni Relations, in a university press release.

A modern-day cèilidh can be anything as informal as a house party, concert, or traditional Scottish dance. Depending on the region, Scottish cèilidhs are most likely to be dances in the Lowlands and concerts in the Highlands. Traditional cèilidh dancing is an important component at these events, where dance numbers such as “Strip the Willow,” “The Gay Gordons,” and “The Military Two Step” are regularly performed, according to Scotland.org, a Scottish government-run website. Cèilidh dancing is essentially the Scottish version of American line dancing, and it has grown in popularity over the past few years. The purpose of the relaxed, unpretentious dance movements is enjoyment, not exhibition.

With the creation of Cèilidh Weekend, Carnegie Mellon has taken the tradition of cèilidh and redefined it to encompass a number of the university’s own customs.

In previous years, the International Festival and Family Weekend were held in early October, and Homecoming Weekend was held in early November. Last year’s Homecoming committee made a concentrated effort to promote participation in the event.

“We want students to know that it’s not just a piece of paper you get from here, but it’s the experience,” said Maricel Paz, one of the chairs of this year’s Student Homecoming Committee. To simplify coordination of Homecoming, International Festival, and Family Weekend, Cèilidh Weekend was created and a new Carnegie Mellon tradition was formed.

Changes such as celebrating reunions during Spring Carnival and Reunion Weekend, instead of during Homecoming, will leave more room for the alumni awards, lectures, and art exhibits that will make up much of the upcoming weekend.

“The common goal is to bring the entire community — students, families, alumni, faculty and staff — together in celebration,” Barnett said in a press release.