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Sit Down Meals: A History
Lily Faucett Associate Editor '20
November 9, 2018

One of the most fundamental Deerfield traditions is the sit-down meal. Gathering together four times a week for lunch and three times for dinner is a custom that Deerfield has held onto significantly more than any other boarding school.

“No one is as committed to sit-down as we are,” said Dean of Students Kevin Kelly. “We hold on to it because of the way it enhances our community.”

Deerfield students eating in the Dining Hall, 1971
Credit: Deerfield Academy Archives

Sit-down meals’ most obvious contribution to the community is the venue it provides for students to meet others who they may not encounter in their everyday lives.

“I love sit-down because it gives me a chance to get to know people from other grades who I would not normally sit with,” said Katherine Hioe ’20.

Sit-down allows students and faculty members with different experiences and stories to have the chance to get to know one another over the course of a three- or four-week rotation, at a total of seven sit-down tables over the course of just one year. Each table can have everyone from ninth-graders to post-graduates, as well as students and faculty members from all over the world.

By having first and second waiters, dish and dessert crews, and a truly amazing kitchen staff, everyone in the community buys into the practice of the sit-down.

“All of us make a contribution which allows the experience to work,” says Mr. Kelly.

While sit-down is a staple of the community by itself, several other traditions have developed from it.

One of these such traditions is singing the Evensong on Sunday nights. While the actual singing of the song has been around for decades, the swaying back and forth together can be traced back to the Class of 2016. These smaller traditions may evolve over time, shaped by the evolution of the campus. However, the essence of these traditions have embedded themselves deeply into Deerfield’s culture. According to Mr. Kelly, “They will never be dismissed from the fabric of who we are.”

Credit: Deerfield Academy Archives

“Part of the energy [at Deerfield] is the community that comes from the sit-down meals here,” he expanded.

New students appreciate the way sit-downs help them meet more people and acclimate to the community, and alums remember the significance of these meals long after they graduate. The importance of just this one tradition stays with Deerfield students long after their time on campus.