Top Graduation Traditions (and the History Behind Them)

by omni

Every year, usually in May or June, students of all school levels prepare for graduation. For high school and college, graduation is a big deal and includes many forms of celebrations and traditions. In anticipation of the graduation season, here’s a look at some of the major graduation traditions: The Pomp and Circumstance Song We’re all very aware of what most call “the graduation song.” The song was written in 1901 by Sir Edward Elgar. It’s known as the Pom and Circumstance and first played at a graduation ceremony in 1905 at Yale . Other schools quickly picked it up and it spread throughout the United States. In a matter of no time, the song was being played at nearly every school for graduation. Today, it is still widely used at graduations and other ceremonies. The Cap and Gown At both the high school and college level, students wear a traditional long gown and cap in their school colors (or just black). The graduation gown has been around for nearly forever, dating as far back as the 12th century, with academic scholars at schools wearing them as a way to show their status. Oak Hall Cap & Gown explains, “In 1321, the of Columbia mandated that all Doctors, Bachelors, and Licentiates must wear gowns. In the latter half of the 14th century, excess in apparel was forbidden in some colleges and prescribed wearing a long gown.” It wasn’t until the late 1800s that schools began introducing different colors of gowns. The cap dates back to the 14th century as a way to signify superiority and intelligence. Fancy Invitations Many schools and various stationary companies offer students the opportunity to buy fancy invitations that the student then sends out to family and friends, inviting them formally to the graduation. Sadly, this is all just rooted in the gift-giving tradition. Good etiquette basically states that if you receive a formal invitation to an event, you should probably give the host or celebrated individual a gift. Tossing Your Cap in the Air This tradition is all thanks to the Naval Academy. CNY News explains, “Prior to the graduation of 1912, graduates of the academy were required to serve two years in the fleet as midshipmen before being commissioned as Navy officers, therefore they still needed their hats. The class of 1912 was commissioned from the time of graduation and received their officers hats, thus their hats were no longer needed, leaving the graduates free to toss their caps into the air and not worry about getting them back. The tradition then caught on at other institutions throughout the country. Now the action is regarded as a symbolic gesture of the end of a chapter in a graduate’s life.” Moving the Cap Tassel This act has only been around for fifty years or so, but it’s very much a tradition. Traditionally, before receiving your diploma and officially graduating, you keep your tassel on the right side of your cap. Once you graduate, you move it to the left. This signifies your shift from student to graduate. As for how it exactly started, no one is exactly sure!

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