First and foremost, every day is cranberry pie day
While students do have robes, the clothes they wear underneath the robes are not uniforms. There is an eclectic mix of tastes, from the very serious horned serpent who wears button-downs and ties every day, to the wampus who has enchanted their graphic t-shirt to move, to the thunderbirds and pukwudgies who mutually exist solely for sweater weather.
Every year on James Steward’s birthday, there is a school-sponsored cranberry pie bake-off. Pukwudgie house nearly always wins. Once, thunderbird won and good lord you would think it was the civil war all over again
There are a lot of local professors, of course, so you get some really thick Boston accents, but there are also professors with southern belle accents who serve iced tea in class, professors with Canadian accents, professors with midwest accents, several Native American professors with smooth, lulling accents, and some Mexican professors who slip into Spanish when they get super excited about their subject. There was a visiting professor from Ireland once, and 96% of female students (and some male students) had major crushes on him.
Wampus house is where you go to get body-crushing, soul-lifting hugs
Horned serpents may be scholars, but they are also some of the keenest observers. They watch the whole school from afar and quietly play matchmaker to all of their friends. No one suspects them because - what, horned serpent? No. They don’t know about emotions. Meanwhile, the house president makes a killing on the bet she made to predict the homecoming king/queen.
Thanksgiving at Ilvermorny is a spectacle that has to be seen to be believed. It’s almost bigger than Christmas. The thanksgiving feasts at Ilvermorny put Hogwarts to shame. Turkey, ham, real cranberry sauce, pies - oh my god so many pies. They’ve got cider, and tea, and cocoa like you wouldn’t believe. There are New English dishes and Southern dishes and Native dishes and Mexican dishes and Canadian dishes and West Coast dishes - essentially it’s a gigantic continental potluck, and it goes on all day long. Also, their pumpkin juice tastes 1000 times better.
While things like dueling and fighting with wands may be frowned upon at Hogwarts, at Ilvermorny it’s kind of just assumed that stuff happens, and the profs are very chill about it. “Just don’t kill each other okay” “just take it outside” “no casting destruction spells indoors” “bring some band-aids with you” “if you break your nose don’t bleed on your homework”
Pukwudgies are a pretty agreeable house over all, if not a bit salty and surly around the edges, they’ll still help you with your homework and bring you soup when you’ve got a cold. But all bets are off when they step onto the lacrosse field. Maybe its a pride thing, but pukwudgies are frikkin animals when playing lacrosse.
Wampus beats pukwudgie at lacrosse fairly often. They don’t actually practice that much, they just kind of win.
This fact has fueled a sports rivalry - friendly in wampus’ eyes, bloodthirsty in pukwudgie’s eyes.
At wampus/pukwudgie games, horned serpents sell special blends of popcorn. Thunderbirds purchase, hoard, and eat 89% of this popcorn.
Horned serpents and pukwudgies often, though not always, end up having an unspoken rivalry in potions class.
Contrary to popular belief, wampus is not full of athletic jocks. However, they are the most body-positive of all of the schools, and, somewhat ironically to the stereotype, will never judge anyone for their athletic ability. They want everyone to be able to enjoy athleticism and bravery and adventure in the ways they are most able and gifted.
That being said, they do have the kind of student body who, if called upon, could become a minute militia.
When there is a freak hurricane or tornado headed headed for the school, it will be a wampus student who is patrolling the halls and telling students where to go for safety. If there is a bully in school, you had better bet your bottom dollar that s/he will be beaten to a pulp by the next day, and it will be a wampus student sporting mysteriously bloody knuckles.
Pukwudgies are the ones who patch up the bully; they might accidentally wind the bandages a little too tight.
Thunderbirds love a good game of hide-and-seek. They have a tradition of, every halloween, playing hide-and-seek in the dark in the woods.
Horned serpents are the students least often caught for sneaking in contraband into school. Caught being the key word. Most students learn at some point in their education that if you want a nice stiff drink, you go to horned serpent. During secret designated holidays, horned serpent common room turns into a speakeasy.
Unexpectedly, it is pukwudgies who carry the most weapons and dangerous materials on their person at any given time. If a group of Ilvermorny students were going through a security check, it would be the pukwudgies held at the line while they emptied their pockets (bigger on the inside, of course) of various poisons and weapons. When asked, they would just shrug and say “just in case”.
The town around Ilvermorny is home to several franchised chain restaurants that, although they are no-maj brands, have been taken over by Ilvermorny alumni and thus serve predominantly wizarding patrons. Cups levitate to customers in the Starbucks, there are magic-only options on the menu; the chik-fil-a floor sweeps itself; at dominos the pizzas assemble themselves while the one clerk waits, bored, at the register. There are in-house cues for magic patrons whenever a no-maj walks in. The clerk rings a bell or taps loudly on the counter, or yells out an order than is actually a code word for stop doing magic stuff. It’s like red light green light.
There are some old service tunnels beneath the school left over from WWII and the Cold War. They’re like a labyrinth, and Thunderbird has a monopoly on the maps to the tunnels. Some of the more obscure tunnels have large rooms that are perfect for parties and impromptu speakeasies (lookin at you, horned serpent). Thunderbirds will rent out these rooms to fellow students at a fair and competitive rate.
Unlike hogwarts, Ilvermorny students are more apt to use modern technology. Electrics can be weird around witches and wizards, but they still enjoy a lot of no-maj programming. They use computers instead of quills (but still have to print off their essays, ugh,) and listen to music, and watch TV.
Star Trek has long been a school cult favorite. Pukwudgies have adopted Bones as their pop culture mascot; Kirk is Thunderbird’s, Spock, horned serpent. Wampus vacillates on which of these three they like most, though it must be said, when they start watching Next Gen, many wampus students find themselves enamored with Worf,
There has only been one no-maj to ever make it past the magic shields of Ilvermorny unaided. This instance was in 1985. His name was Chad, who at the time was 1) stoned out of his mind and 2) delivering chinese takeout to a horned serpent pulling an all-nighter. School admin found out later, and there was hell to pay. They never did track down Chad to wipe his memory.
Pukwudgie house does have more than its fair share of healers, so they are definitely the ones to go to for cold remedies, home made soup, the best cures for menstrual cramps, and really good back rubs.
However, they are also the ones to go to for less medical remedies: the best hot cocoa, the most gourmet teas, and home made food.
Each house has a class president who is elected for a two-year term (unless they’re a final year student, in which case they will serve one before being taken over by their VP). They have some influence within their houses, but never as much as they’d like. For instance, the thunderbird president once attempted to institute mid-day dancing parties, but school admin said no.
Pukwudgies are usually not super athletic, but are often very good at things like darts, archery, and waterbaloon fights.
Wampus takes ultimate frisbee very, very seriously.
Thunderbird hosts an ongoing scavenger hunt throughout the semester.
The women of horned serpent blow off steam and the stuffy acadmic pressures of their house by making pillow forts and watching rom coms with each other.
Back in the eighties some wizard created a magic version of D&D, and it has become a weekend favorite of many students across all of the houses.
After graduation, instead of having a class ring, it has become tradition for Ilvermorny students to make a pendant out of their golden cloak buttons.
Ilvermorny may be separated by inter-house squabbles much like at Hogwarts, but at the end of the day, they all leave school wearing the same blue and cranberry robes, sporting the same skill with a wand, raised to the same scrappy, witty, mod-podge tenacity that American witches and wizards embody so well.