Campfire ceremonies are one of the most memorable parts of the Scouting experience. Every Scout will participate in quite a few of these, so it’s important to know the game plan! Whether you’re holding a campfire ceremony within your patrol, troop, or entire summer camp, in this article you’ll learn my best methods for creating an incredible campfire experience.
After reading, you’ll never again need to worry if you’ve been tasked with organizing a campfire ceremony! There are some key elements to a campfire program, which we’ll be covering shortly, that you can include to make your ceremony more exciting, tight-knit, and memorable. 😀
As we go through the various components of a campfire ceremony, I’ll also provide you with some advice based on my own experiences, and even give you an example Scout campfire program to try in your troop! But first, we need to answer the all-important question…
Why Even Have a Campfire Ceremony?
To some, a campfire ceremony can seem like a cheesy event to promote comradery among Scouts — and they’re not completely wrong. Comradery and friendship are definitely a big part of why you should regularly hold campfire ceremonies with your troop!
However, the cheesiness is up to the planner. With the right components and people involved, the cheesiness will go away to create a fun and memorable experience for all Scouts. These ceremonies are one of the few moments in your Scouting journey where you can sit back, let loose, and have a fun time with your troop buddies.
Plus, there’s definitely a peacefulness to a campfire ceremony that’s hard to find elsewhere. With how hectic life, and even Scouting can be, it’s always a good idea to take a step back and just enjoy being in good company out in nature. 🙂
So, with all of the benefits being explained, now we’ll be diving into the components of a successful campfire ceremony!
How To Hold A Memorable Scout Campfire Ceremony
Every campfire ceremony will share many similar elements. It’s up to the person planning the ceremony to decide what to include, but there are some tested ceremony sections you should be aware of. In this section, consider each of these parts so you can incorporate them into your next campfire ceremony!
Also, campfire ceremonies are practically always Scout-led events, so participation is key. Scouts should be in charge of selecting and performing skits, songs, chants, or whatever else they want to incorporate into their ceremony. If you’re a Scout, remember that it’s up to you to make this event as fun and memorable as possible!
Recruit Willing and Enthusiastic Scouts
A campfire ceremony is not a single Scout project. In order to hold a successful campfire program, you’ll need the support and participation of a handful of Scouts who are enthusiastic about making this ceremony successful and fun.
Whenever I led a campfire ceremony or skit night, I tended to pick Scouts that I had good chemistry with. These people weren’t always someone in my patrol but were always ones I had good experiences with. You’ll want to show this comradery during the ceremony so that other Scouts have a good example of what Scouting friendships are like.
You’ll also need Scouts to help with lighting the fire, tending to it throughout the ceremony, extinguishing it when necessary, and leading songs/skits. You’ll want Scouts who can inject energy into the program, match the mood, and keep other Scouts engaged. Pick your campfire team ceremony early on, and have them help you plan!
Involving other Scouts is also a great way to brainstorm fun ideas for your ceremony. They may bring things to your ceremony that you never would have thought of! It’s important to be open-minded and take their thoughts into consideration, as riffing on new ideas is the best way to plan a new and exciting program.
You likely probably know a handful of Scout songs, as do the members of your troop. Songs are extremely useful during a campfire ceremony as they give the audience a chance to get engaged and participate. In my troop, we’d always open and close the ceremony with a Scout song.
If you need some inspiration for some Scout songs, check out my article on 7 of my favorite Scouting songs. Plus, for closing your ceremony, I’d highly recommend singing Scout Vespers! These are all classic songs that have been passed down through Scouting for a very long time.
If you want to be an expert campfire planner, you can even incorporate songs into key moments of the ceremony! For instance, you could start the ceremony with a repeat-after-me song to get everyone having fun, add a funny song in the middle to give the crowd an energy boost, and end with a slower song to wind down the night.
Scout participation is extremely crucial during a campfire ceremony, and songs are one of the best ways to get others involved. Encourage fellow Scouts to join in during your song. You may even want to print out lyrics for Scouts who may be unfamiliar with what you’re singing.
Don’t be discouraged if you don’t think you can sing. I definitely couldn’t, and we’re definitely not trying to win American Idol here. Campfire ceremonies are all about just getting everyone involved and having fun! Plus, if you do have Scouts with vocal talent, you can even recruit them for a specific portion of the ceremony.
Skits are a favorite among Scouts. Typically, you won’t need any props, costumes, or even a stage. Skits are an easy way to keep the Scouts entertained and feeling good during what may be a longer ceremony.
There are plenty of Scouting skits to choose from if you don’t feel like making something up beforehand. I even wrote an article detailing some of my favorite skits that’ll get everyone in attendance laughing!
Skits will typically require more than one Scout, so make sure you’ve recruited a few people and filled them in on the skit. You may even want to practice the skit beforehand to make sure everyone’s on the same page.
You can even recreate funnny scenes in place of a skit! Whenever my troop had to plan a skit, every patrol defaulted to acting out a scene from “Monty Python’s The Holy Grail.” This was an especially popular movie among my friends (and still one of my favorites) and it was sure to get a laugh.
If you’re using a skit that you created or something you found online, make sure it’s appropriate for your audience. Determine what is and isn’t a good fit for a campfire ceremony before delivering your skit to an audience. If in doubt, run it by your Scoutmaster first. However, all of the skits in my article are clean and should be good to go!
Energy is Key!
I’ve already mentioned this a little bit, but this cannot be overstated. The ceremony master’s energy is extremely important if you want to keep your attendees engaged and excited. You need to show everyone you’re excited for this ceremony so they should be too.
Not every moment of your ceremony will be exciting or loud though. You’ll want to interject moments of energy with calmer and quieter moments so as to not wear the attendees out too early. These quieter sections should be met with just as much enthusiasm by the host.
If you’re recruiting other Scouts to lead or participate, emphasize being energetic to them as well. Guiding them on what energy levels are needed and when is important in having a successful ceremony. By incorporating varying levels of energy, laughs, and unexpected twists, you’ll be sure to create an epic and memorable program!
Plan Your Campfire
When planning a campfire ceremony, you’ll obviously need a campfire! Depending on the size of your crowd and the area where you’re holding the ceremony, you’ll generally want to create a large, bright, non-smoky, and manageable fire. Here are a few quick fire-building points to keep in mind:
- Try to use very dry wood that won’t smoke much. (not green wood)
- Look for thicker sticks so your fire won’t need to be fed as often.
- Look for hardwoods like oak, birch, hickory, maple, or beech trees, as these burn brightly.
This may be a good time to recruit a Scout leader to oversee your fire. They can offer some tips on how to get it going, keep it alight, and prevent it from getting out of control. A Fireman’s Chit is definitely required here, so make sure you review the principles of safe fire building in my linked guide!
You’ll also need to follow safety protocols when having a fire. Make sure you have water buckets nearby to extinguish the fire and that you have a safe perimeter around the fire so no one gets injured before, during, or after your ceremony. Also, no running near the fire!
Another great trick is to incorporate a show into your fire lighting. There are a few different methods of how you could accomplish this:
- Passing the torch
- At the beginning of your ceremony, you or your helpers could use a large torch to light the fire. This adds a level of formality to what could otherwise be a normal campfire.
- Incorporate a song
- You could begin your ceremony with a song that everyone slowly sings until a specific verse when the fire is lit. This is a cool way to get everyone in the mood as the ceremony begins.
- Part of a skit
- Instead of a song, you could start your ceremony with a skit. As part of the script, someone will light the fire within the context of your skit. This will help to capture the attention of your audience pretty quickly!
There are many other ways you can light the fire, these are just some examples to help you get the ball rolling. The official BSA Scout website also has some great suggestions as well as step-by-step instructions on how you can light your fire for more theatrics.
Finally, if you’re planning to make a show of the fire lighting, make sure you have a backup plan. It may not work out as planned, so you’ll want to have something else in mind in case your plan A doesn’t work as intended. Speaking from personal experience, lol. 😛
Set Ceremony Ground Rules
In order for this ceremony to go as smoothly as possible, you’ll want to set some ground rules for everyone in attendance to follow. This is not only to ensure everyone is safe but also to make sure you set the right tone for the ceremony. Here were my troop’s basic ground rules.
- No Talking
- This is self-explanatory, but you’ll want to make sure this is set before the ceremony starts. To keep the mood without interruptions, you’ll want to ensure everyone is quiet unless there is intended audience participation.
- No Flashlights
- For a campfire ceremony to work, you’ll want the only light to be the campfire itself. You’ll want to hold this at dusk or night as well so that the only illumination is your campfire.
- Fire Safety
- Make sure that you are following fire safety protocols during the ceremony. If need be, brief your helpers and other Scouts on how they should act around the fire so no one gets injured.
There are plenty of other rules you can add if need be, these are just the essentials. I would recommend briefing the Scouts before the ceremony is started so you don’t run into any issues during the event.
Snacks are definitely optional, but they’re not a bad idea for a campfire ceremony. At the end of your ceremony, you could give Scouts the chance to make smores or roast sausages over the fire before it’s lights-out. Tasty campfire-cooked treats are always a fun way to finish off the night!
You’ll want to come prepared if you decide to incorporate food. You’ll need sticks for every attendee as well as plenty of sausages or marshmallows, crackers, and chocolate. Also, make sure to let your fellow Scouts know you have food planned beforehand so they leave some stomach room (and are even more excited)! 😀
If you want to go all out, you could even plan some dutch oven desserts or anything else prepared by fellow Scouts. You’ll want to recruit a cooking crew though as this may take some time. PS: Here’s a yummy recipe for Scout peach cobbler!
So, there you have it! these are all of the components of a successful campfire program. Now, to see it all put into action, check out this example campfire ceremony program!
An Example Scout Campfire Ceremony Program
It may be hard to fit all of these elements together into something cohesive if you’ve never planned a campfire ceremony before. In this section, I’ll give you an example plan of how you could run your ceremony. That way, you’ll have a base program to build off of! Let’s dive in…
- Before doing anything, you’ll want to ensure that you have a plan for a ceremony. By using the elements above, as well as this example, you’ll be able to craft a successful and fun campfire ceremony!
- Recruit Scouts
- Before anything gets started, you’ll want to make sure you have some help. As I said above, a great campfire ceremony is a team effort, so make sure to involve others in campfire planning and production.
- Announce the Event
- You’ll want to make sure Scouts and leaders are aware of the event ahead of time so they can plan their activities around it. A campfire ceremony will typically happen after dinner and before lights-out.
- Build Your Fire
- One of the last things you need to do before your ceremony is to build your fire. You’ll want to make sure you have plenty of fire-starting materials, as well as water on hand. Make sure you mark a perimeter around your fire as well.
- Usher in Scouts
- Now that it’s time for the ceremony, you’ll want to make sure all Scouts have a seat before you set the tone for the event. Give the Scouts time to quiet down during this part before you jump into the action.
- Opening Song
- Many Scout campfire ceremonies begin with a song. You could even consider replacing this with a poem. However, keep in mind that your opening will set the mood for the night as Scouts start to get settled into their seats.
- Light the Fire
- This may be part of the previous steps for some ceremonies, but once you’ve opened you’ll want to light the fire to let everyone know that the ceremony has begun (or it can be lit in step 4). You should definitely add theatrics to this part if you can!
- Reflect on the Day
- Now that the ceremony is started, the host can take this time to reflect on the activities of the day or the outing as a whole. This is a great time to spotlight Scouts who have accomplished something, or highlight funny stories!
- At this time, you’ll probably want to incorporate another song. This could be any of your favorite Scout songs, but you’ll want to make sure you encourage audience participation.
- This is a great time to do one or multiple skits. If there are Scouts in the audience who have a skit, ask them to get involved. Each patrol could even prepare a skit of their own, beforehand! This part should be fun and the goal is to make others laugh.
- Scout Stories
- Toward the end of the ceremony, you may want to incorporate a story or learning lesson. This could be real or fictional. An example could be about Baden-Powell starting Scouts. You’ll want to research some campfire stories ahead of time.
- Thorns and Roses
- Now that the ceremony is closing, let every Scout share with the rest of the troop their best and worst moments (a thorn and a rose) during the camp. This is another good time to reflect and help Scouts see the positives, even if they’ve had a rough day.
- Now that the ceremony has come to a close you’ll want to dismiss everyone to bed in silence. You don’t have to require everyone to be silent all night, just until they reach their tent.
This template should serve as a guide for when you plan your campfire ceremony. These events can be extremely fun and memorable if done right, so having a solid plan is crucial to success! I definitely encourage you to build from this template when creating your own ceremony. 🙂
Epic campfire ceremonies were one of my favorite parts of Scouting. That’s why, I’d highly encourage you to make your next one as awesome as possible! By putting the elements we covered in this article into practice, you’ll be sure to wow your troop and create a campfire ceremony to remember.
Thanks so much for dropping by ScoutSmarts, and for making our world a better place through your service in Scouting! If you enjoyed learning about how to hold amazing troop campfire ceremonies, I’d highly recommend also checking out any of the following articles if they spark your interest:
- Cole’s Helpful Ebook: The 7 Secrets for Scouting Success 📖 (discount included!)
- Scout Camp Planning: Schedules, Activities, And Gear
- 99 Epic BSA Activities: Scouts Share Their Favorite Troop Adventures
- Scout Camping Activities: 5 Outdoor Games Your Troop Will Love
- The Essential Camp Packing List: A Scout’s Trek Gear Checklist
That’s all for now! Hope to see you back here again soon. Until next time, I’m wishing you fantastic campfires and an incredible Scouting journey ahead! 😀