Girl Scout Traditions

Throughout the long history of Girl Scouts, certain traditions remain meaningful and important, and are still practiced today. This section describes annual celebrations in the Girl Scout year, as well as other revered Girl Scout traditions.

Girl Scout Calendar
Girl Scouts celebrate three special birthdays each year, which you’re encouraged to include in your group planning. 
  • February 22: World Thinking Day (the birthday of both Lord Baden-Powell and Lady Olave Baden-Powell, the originators of Boy Scouts and the Scouting Movement worldwide). 
  • March 12: The birthday of Girl Scouting in the USA. The first troop meeting was held in Savannah, Georgia, on this date in 1912. Note that Girl Scout Week begins the Sunday before March 12 (a day known as “Girl Scout Sunday”) and extends through the Saturday following March 12 (a day known as “Girl Scout Sabbath”).
  • Third week in April: Volunteer Appreciation Week centers on the long-standing National Girl Scout Leaders’ Day (April 22), but expands the definition of volunteers beyond troop leaders, to include all the volunteers who work in so many ways on behalf of girls in Girl Scouting. 
  • October 31: Founder’s Day (Juliette Gordon Low’s birthday).

Time-Honored Ceremonies
Ceremonies play an important part in Girl Scouts and are used not only to celebrate accomplishments, experience time-honored traditions, and reinforce the values of the Promise and Law, but also to encourage girls to take a short pause in their busy lives and connect with their fellow Girl Scouts in fun and meaningful ways. Many examples of ceremonies—for awards, meeting openings and closings, and so on—are sewn right into the journey, including ideas for new ceremonies girls can create!

Girls use ceremonies for all sorts of reasons: to open or close meetings, give out awards, welcome new members, renew memberships, and honor special Girl Scout accomplishments. A brief list, in alphabetical order, follows, so that you can become familiar with the most common Girl Scout ceremonies:

  • Bridging ceremonies mark a girl’s move from one grade level of Girl Scouting to another, such as from Junior to Cadette. (Note that Fly-Up is a special bridging ceremony for Girl Scout Brownies who are bridging to Juniors.)
  • Closing ceremonies finalize the meeting, with expectations for the next. A closing ceremony may be as simple as a hand squeeze while standing in a circle.
  • Court of Awards is a time to recognize girls who have accomplished something spectacular during the Girl Scout year.
  • Flag ceremonies can be part of any activity that honors the American flag. 
  • Girl Scout Bronze (or Silver or Gold) Award ceremony honors Girl Scout Juniors who have earned the Girl Scout Bronze Award (Cadettes who have earned the Silver Award; Seniors or Ambassadors who have earned the Gold Award), and is usually held for a group or combined with the council recognition.
  • Girl Scouts’ Own is a girl-led program that allows girls to explore their feelings and beliefs around a topic (such as the importance of friendship or the personal meaning they get from Girl Scout Promise and Law) using the spoken word, favorite songs, poetry, or other methods of expression. It is never a religious ceremony.
  • Investiture welcomes new members, girls or adults, into the Girl Scout family for the first time. Girls receive their Girl Scout, Brownie Girl Scout, or Daisy Girl Scout pin at this time.
  • Opening ceremonies start troop meetings and can also begin other group meetings.
  • Pinning ceremonies help celebrate when girls receive grade-level Girl Scout pins.
  • Rededication ceremonies are opportunities for girls and adults to renew their commitment to the Girl Scout Promise and Law.
For more about ceremonies, visit www.girlscouts.org/program/gs_central/ceremonies.

Signs, Songs, Handshake, and More!
Over the course of 98 years, any organization is going to develop a few common signals that everyone understands. Such is the case with Girl Scouts which has developed a few unique ways to greet, acknowledge, and communicate. Examples are listed in the following sections.

Girl Scout Sign
The idea of the sign came from the days of chivalry, when armed knights greeted friendly knights by raising the right hand, palm open, as a sign of friendship. To give the sign yourself, raise the three middle fingers of the right hand palm forward and shoulder high (the three extended fingers represent the three parts of the Girl Scout Promise). Girls give the sign when they:
Say the Promise or Law.
Are welcomed in Girl Scouts at an investiture ceremony that welcomes new members.
Receive an award, patch, pin, or other recognition.
Greet other Girl Scouts and Girl Guides.

Girl Scout Handshake
The handshake is a more formal way of greeting other Girl Scouts, and is also an appropriate way to receive an award. To do the handshake, shake left hands and give the Girl Scout Sign with your right hand. 

Quiet Sign
The quiet sign can be extremely useful to you as a volunteer—teach this to girls during your first meeting! The sign is made by raising your right hand high with an open palm. As girls in the group see the sign, they stop talking and also raise their hands. Once everyone is silent, the meeting can begin. 

Girl Scout Slogan and Motto
The Girl Scout slogan is, “Do a good turn daily.” The Girl Scout motto is, “Be prepared.”

Songs
Whether singing around a campfire or lifting a chorus of voices on the Mall in Washington, D.C., Girl Scouts have always enjoyed the fun and fellowship that music creates. In fact, the first Girl Scout Song Book, a collection of songs put together by girl members, was published in 1925. Since then, the organization’s love of music has grown along with the girls it has empowered. Songs can be used to open or close meetings, enhance ceremonies, lighten a load while hiking, or just share a special moment with other Girl Scouts. For tips on choosing and leading songs, go to http://www.girlscouts.org/program/gs_central/activity_ideas/songleading.asp​. A variety of songbooks are also available for purchase. Check out your council’s shop by visiting www.girlscoutsofwesternohio.org or visit the GSUSA online shop.