Embryonic Eats

What puts the “popcorn” in the popcorn party?


Going to the same school for fourteen years has been a bizarre experience so far. Oftentimes, I find myself waiting at the salad bar in front of the adult who taught me how to write my first name, 13 years ago. Right now I’m learning calculus that, five years ago, I was glaring at through the courtyard windows, wondering how all the letters could possibly be math. 

Another aspect of my life that has been changed by the amount of time I’ve spent at Parker is the way I view traditions. In theory, traditions are things we keep the same through time. However, since junior kindergarten, I’ve witnessed numerous modifications to our traditions.

Since it’s the holidays, I feel it’s best fit to talk about the popcorn party. This tradition has had many different meanings to me over the years. As a kindergartener, all I knew of the popcorn party was that Santa came soon after it. As a middle schooler, I learned more about the tradition. I knew it as the party that all seniors attend the night before the 12 days Morning Ex.

Once I entered high school, I finally understood the magnitude of the popcorn party. Every senior is invited. For weeks leading up to the party, there are constant whispers in the hallway of the party’s details. The popcorn party serves as a cultural milestone the senior class gets to anticipate together. Who will host it? What will everyone wear? How late will people stay?

Now that I’m Food Critic for the weekly, I think of this term with a new interest. I want to know what puts the “popcorn” in “the popcorn party.” Once I understand this, I’ll be able to conclude why popcorn lives through the name, but no longer the tradition.

I will start by sharing my learnings from sisters who both hosted the popcorn party for their respective grades: Misha Geller Warning ‘97 and Tanya Franco ‘90.

“It started off as an innocent, literal popcorn-making party for the 12 days MX”, Franco said. 

Geller immediately jumps in to cut her off- they are sisters of course. “Big brothers and sisters, as we called it back then, would make the popcorn balls for their classes and hand them out after twelve days,” Geller said.

Geller recounts getting the popcorn balls when she was younger. They were held together by caramel, and “around the size of a baseball”. In Santa Claus’ bag at 12 days, the balls were gifted to anyone who wanted one. 

“So we gathered the night before to make them, and then the party started,” Franco said. It took hours and was very messy. Franco doesn’t know how she hosted the party as someone in “the nerdy group,” but she does know that it took multiple hours and made a giant mess.

“The night we had the party at my house, the US invaded Irish for the first time (1989) and so we were glued to the TV. All the seniors spent the night at my house. No one was allowed to leave. Then we went to Parker in the morning.”

By the time Warning was a senior, the night was just a party. Someone had found a bakery that made popcorn balls, so it was no longer their responsibility. 

To find out when the popcorn lost it’s involvement not just with seniors but with the entire school, I reached out to Alex Frankie ‘99. She informed me that once she was around 5th grade, there was no more popcorn being distributed at the 12 days Morning Ex. 

There you have it! Confirmed: the popcorn party’s name does have a meaning behind it. I’ll keep this in mind as I attend the party this Thursday, and maybe even throw a bag of popccorn in the microwave! 

Happy holidays,