The parallels of party culture

Humor Columnist Heath Yancey draws parallels between fraternity parties and a well-known Biblical parable.


The night begins as groups and couples migrate from house to house asking to be let in just like Mary and Joseph. 

Andrew Walsh | Cavalier Daily

On the surface, frat parties might appear to be cesspools of sin. But as with anything at U.Va., a closer look yields a different answer. The beloved pilgrimage of Hoos from frat house to frat house, Thursday through Saturday, rain or shine, actually dates back to ancient times. The crawl from party to party is actually very similar to the plight of Mary and Joseph as they searched for a place to stay in Bethlehem. The tradition’s origins are unknown, but legend tells of a fraternity brother majoring in Religious Studies beginning the ritual one night as he, in a drunken stupor, knocked on the doors of all the fraternity houses trying to locate his own.

The tradition goes as follows: before the night starts, the most devout of students begin with a pregame. Commonly classified as imbibing before a football game, a pregame refers to the ritual performed before the reenactment of the nativity or the “role-play,” of Mary and Joseph. The students partake in wine and liquor, often in red solo cups or miscellaneous glassware, to purify themselves and get closer to Christ similar to communion and other Christian ceremonies from across the globe. Red solo cups and mismatching shot glasses became the cups of choice as Mary and Joseph would not have had high quality matching vessels. This time-honored tradition also explains the both confusing and homogenous fashion choices made by the men attending frat parties, the signature attire of a Hawaiian shirt and flip-flops serves as an homage to baggy robes and sandals Joseph would have worn during his trip from inn to inn.

The night begins as groups and couples migrate from house to house asking to be let in just like Mary and Joseph. Despite the fact that the frat houses are Greek, not Roman, they are the closest thing to Roman inns on Grounds. Security guards and frat brothers act as innkeepers to see whose name is and isn’t on the list. Most parties are already full or won’t let guys in, so the group journeys on from house to house, just like Mary and Joseph, looking for a place to stay.

Finally, they are all allowed into one party. Once inside, one can see the effort taken to establish the biblical connection. All of the furniture is emptied from the house to help it resemble a barren manger and with the frat brothers acting as the dank and grimy animals to make the scene more real. Before each night, the walls are doused in holy water to sanctify the house and all that will reside in it. The walls drip throughout the night, blessing those who come in its contact with peace and further dampness. To heighten the spiritual connection, students pass around ceremonial incense in the form of juuls and vapes. The fruity smell from the different pods of incense creates a perpetual cloud of smoke symbolizing their holy prayers ascending to heaven. The night goes on and the party ensues. The most devoted party-goes begin a form of rapture inside the house: gesticulating and gallivanting in celebration of Christ’s imminent second coming, culminating in many party-goers being overwhelmed by the wonders of Christ and tossing their cookies.

Towards the end of the night, the “wise friends” start to go looking for their fellow devout students who they know are at a party. Unlike the three wise men directed by an angel, they instead gather ominous premonitions from shaky and confusing Snapchat stories. They turn to shared locations and Snap Map to guide them, like the star of the three wise men to their friends. They cross Grounds bearing three gifts: Sheetz, Gatorade and ibuprofen. Once united, the group flees together and returns to the safety of their dorms. That marks the end of that night’s reenactment only for it to continue until Saturday night preparing for church on Sunday.

Next time you think, “I wouldn’t be caught dead at a frat party,” remember that it’s really just a few intense religious kids praising the Lord. 

Heath Yancey is a Humor columnist for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at

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