Traditions and Ceremonies
The pride you feel when you share a special Girl Scout handshake with someone you’ve just met—no matter where they grew up or whether they were a Girl Scout fifty years ago or five years ago? There’s nothing like it.
Traditions connect Girl Scouts across the globe. They link current Girl Scouts to the trailblazers who came before them and remind them of the camaraderie that comes with a wide network of millions of fellow Girl Scouts and Girl Scout alums.
Read on for an overview of some well-loved traditions. You can always find more info about Girl Scout traditions and ceremonies in your grade level’s Girl’s Guide to Girl Scouting.
Whether at a troop meeting, a council-wide event, or meeting Girl Scouts around the world, here are a few traditions that every Girl Scout knows.
Girl Scout sign: Girl Scouts make the Girl Scout sign—raising three fingers of the right hand with the thumb holding down the pinky—when they say the Girl Scout Promise. The three fingers represent the three parts of the Promise.
Motto: The Girl Scout motto is "Be prepared." In the 1947 Girl Scout Handbook, the motto was explained this way: "A Girl Scout is ready to help out wherever she is needed. Willingness to serve is not enough; you must know how to do the job well, even in an emergency." The same holds true today.
Slogan: The Girl Scout slogan is "Do a good turn daily." The slogan, which has been used since 1912, is a reminder that Girl Scouts can make a difference in big and small ways.
Greeting: Girl Scouts can greet one another with the Girl Scout handshake, used by Girl Scouts and Girl Guides all over the world. The handshake is made by shaking hands with the left hand and making the Girl Scout sign with the right. The left hand is nearer to the heart and signifies friendship.
Friendship Circle: Representing the unbroken chain of friendship among Girl Scouts and Girl Guides around the world, the Friendship Circle involves Girl Scouts standing in a circle, crossing their right arms over their left, and clasping hands with their friends on both sides. Everyone then makes a silent wish as a friendship squeeze is passed from hand to hand around the circle.
Ceremonies help Girl Scouts celebrate special moments and accomplishments throughout the year, such as bridging to another level or earning a National Leadership Journey award. They can plan a ceremony around a theme, such as friendship or nature, and express themselves in words or song. There are all kinds of ceremonies:
Bridging ceremonies mark a girl's move from one level of Girl Scouting to another. Find bridging kits for every level.
Flag ceremonies can be part of any activity that honors the American flag. Be sure to observe flag etiquette during a flag ceremony.
A Fly-Up is a bridging ceremony for Girl Scout Brownies bridging to Girl Scout Juniors. Girls receive the Girl Scout pin along with their Brownie wings.
A Girl Scout Bronze, Silver, or Gold Award ceremony honors Girl Scouts who have earned these special awards and is usually held at the troop/group level or combined with council recognition.
Girl Scouts' Own is a girl-planned program that lets girls explore their feelings around a topic, such as friendship or the Girl Scout Promise and Law, using spoken word, favorite songs, poetry, or other forms of expression. It is never a religious ceremony.
Investiture welcomes new members into the Girl Scout family for the first time. New Girl Scouts receive their membership pin as well as their grade-level pin at this ceremony.
Journey ceremonies honor Girl Scouts who have earned the final award in a Journey. The ceremonies are usually held at the troop/group level and invite Girl Scouts to develop a themed celebration of their Journey, often including friends and family.
A Court of Awards ceremony honors Girl Scouts’ accomplishments. They are presented with their badges, year pins, and other recognitions earned during the year. Volunteers may also be recognized during the ceremony. The Court of Awards can be held anytime during the year, at any location, and as often as the troop wants.
Opening ceremonies can kick off regular Girl Scout meetings and make them feel special!
Pinning ceremonies help celebrate when girls receive grade-level Girl Scout pins.
Rededication ceremonies are an opportunity for Girl Scouts, their families, and volunteers to renew their commitment to the Girl Scout Promise and Law.
Throughout the year, Girl Scouts and Girl Scout volunteers celebrate some very special days in Girl Scouting.
Juliette Gordon Low's birthday or Founder's Day, October 31, marks the birth in 1860 of Girl Scouts of the USA founder Juliette Gordon Low in Savannah, Georgia.
World Thinking Day, February 22, celebrates the birthdays of Girl Guide/Girl Scout founder Lord Baden-Powell (1857–1941) and World Chief Guide Lady Baden-Powell (1889–1977). The day is also a time to donate funds to the Juliette Low World Friendship Fund.
Girl Scouts’ birthday, March 12, commemorates the day in 1912 when Juliette Gordon Low officially registered the organization's first 18 members in Savannah, Georgia.
Girl Scout Week is celebrated each March, starting with Girl Scout Sunday and ending with Girl Scout Sabbath on a Saturday, and it always includes Girl Scouts’ birthday, March 12.
Girl Scouts Celebrate Faith events give Girl Scouts an opportunity to be recognized at their places of worship during Girl Scout Week, share their legacy of service to others, and deepen their connection to their faith and Girl Scouting. Celebration days include Girl Scout Sunday, Girl Scout Jummah, and Girl Scout Sabbath/Shabbat.
Girl Scout Leader's Day, April 22, honors all the volunteers who work as leaders and mentors in partnership with girls. On this day, Girl Scouts, their families, and their communities find special ways to thank their Girl Scout volunteers.
SWAPS stands for “Special Whatchamacallits Affectionately Pinned Somewhere.” They are small tokens of friendship that Girl Scouts exchange with one another, and each SWAP uniquely reflects a fellow Girl Scout, their troop, or a memory of a special event. They’re a great way to share stories and get to know Girl Scouts from across the country and the world.
Tips for SWAPS Givers
Girl Scouts should:
Think about the kind of SWAPS they would like to receive from someone else.
Try not to spend a lot of money. Consider making something from donated or recycled material.
Be creative and take time to make hand-crafted SWAPS. (Include directions for making them if it is a craft project that can be replicated.)
Try to have one for each event participant and staff member.
Plan ahead so there's time to make them.
Make SWAPS that can be worn, used, or displayed.
Ask their group or service unit for help, if needed, in putting SWAPS together.
Make them portable. Remember, they must be carried or shipped ahead to the event, where other Girl Scouts will be carrying them away.
What To Do with SWAPS
Girl Scouts can:
Include them with thank-you letters to sponsors and those who helped with a travel event.
Keep them in a scrapbook, memory box, or shadow box.
Use them to make a quilt or other textile project.
Put pins and patches on a hat or jacket.
Start a council best-of-SWAPS collection.
SWAPS Safety and Etiquette
Girl Scouts should:
Never refuse to swap with another person.
Swap face-to-face, especially if exchanging addresses or email information.
Avoid using glass or sharp objects in SWAPS.
Follow all Safety Activity Checkpoints guidelines.
Avoid using food products, unless they are individually wrapped.