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A Peek at Time-Honored Girl Scout Traditions


This year marks 110th birthday of Girl Scouts. The organization and our council are constantly looking for ways to help each new generation of Girl Scouts grow and change the world she’s in right now. But we also hold time-honored traditions of the past close to our hearts. And we keep them alive by integrating them into our time together.

Each fall, we welcome new members into the program. As we gear up for another year of adventures, we want to be sure all girls, caregivers, and volunteers are in the loop with our traditions. They aren’t secret rites or rituals, but it can sure feel like that when someone mentions the Friendship Circle or the Girl Scout Handshake and you’re still navigating the newness of it all.

So, settle in. We’ve got you! Let’s take a quick crash course in some of Girl Scouts’ oldest and most loved traditions.

The Eternal Flame Candle Ceremony: Tradition holds that when our founder, Juliette Gordon Low, realized that the early troops of Girl Scouts of her time would soon be growing up and heading out into the world, down their own unique paths, their lives would never be the same. Juliette wanted the girls to carry their shared spark and connection through the rest of their lives, no matter where they went. Today, at special occasions, Girl Scouts will sometimes stand in a circle, holding candles, while troop leaders staff speak well wishes for their future.

The Girl Scout Handshake:
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.

The Girl Scout Sign: You can 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.

On my honor, I will try:
To serve God and my country,
To help people at all times,
And to live by the Girl Scout Law.

The Girl Scout Motto:
"Be prepared." The 1947 Girl Scout Handbook explains 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, from troop meetings, to camping, to community service, and more.

The Girl Scout 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.

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.

The 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.