Graduation Across The Globe

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In the United States, graduation is a joyous time for both graduates and families. After all, it’s a considerable achievement to get through four years of high school or receive a higher degree from an institution. There are also several graduation traditions in American culture, including the famous “turning of the tassel.”

However, America isn’t the only country with its own special traditions during graduation. All over the world, graduates celebrate this milestone with their own customs and celebrations. Some of them are quirkier than others, but they’re all intriguing to learn about. Let’s take a look at some of the unique graduation traditions around the world! 

American Graduates Turn Their Tassels to Celebrate Their Achievement 

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There are standard traditions at graduation ceremonies across the United States. During the ceremony, graduates typically wear caps and gowns traditionally. They wait expectantly to receive their physical diploma or degree. Another major part of the ceremony often is the turning of the tassel on the graduation cap. During the ceremony, it is moved from the right side to the left side to symbolize students officially becoming graduates. Sometimes the tassel is turned by all graduates at once. It can also be done when the student crosses the stage and receives the actual diploma.

Another graduation tradition is the playing of “Pomp and Circumstance.” It was written by Sir Edward Edgar in 1901 and was used to celebrate the crowning of King Edward VII. Years later when Sir Edgar received an honorary doctorate from Yale University, the song was played in his honor. It quickly became a tradition to play it at other graduation ceremonies across the country. 

Though there are standard traditions for most American graduates, individual schools may have their own unique customs. For example, some students at schools like Rhodes College (Memphis, TN) and Old Dominion University (Norfolk, VA) avoid walking across their college’s seal on campus before graduation day. It’s seen as bad luck! The graduates at the School of Architecture at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana decorate their caps with model buildings. Even stranger: graduates at Wellesley College in Massachusetts students race wooden hoops down the area’s famed Tupelo Street. 

Argentina and Italy Publicly Cover Grads in Trash

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Even if there are weird graduation traditions at certain American schools, other countries may have them beat. In Argentina and Italy, on the last day of exams, it gets pretty messy! 

On that day, families and friends literally throw food and junk at these upcoming grads. They’ll throw the messiest things possible like ketchup, syrup, eggs, glitter, and more. Typically, students are expecting this so they wear older clothes that they won’t mind getting messed up. Some countries may be offended by this unusual tradition, but the students look at it as a rite of passage. This wild custom is also done to seniors at Oxford University in the UK after completing exams as well. 

Sweden Graduates Wear Sailing Captain Hats Instead of Caps

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In Sweden, high school graduates don’t wear the typical cap and gown. During their ceremonies, they will traditionally wear formal or white attire. Girls will wear white dresses or jumpsuits, while the guys wear dark suits with a white shirt. However, what’s most unique is the hat they all wear.  

Sweden grads will wear what looks like a sailing captain’s hat, which can be customized by various companies like ABC-Gruppen. On the brim of the hat, the graduate’s full name is written in cursive. In between the first and last name, is a gem encased in gold. The gem would represent the particular program that someone studied during school. Some schools allow students to write whatever they want on the back of the hat, like their class year or a brief message. Other schools will include their own designs. 

Graduates In Japan Perform Choreography During Their Ceremonies

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Japan is a country full of rich culture and traditions. It makes sense that graduation day would be no different. Before graduation, it is a common practice for juniors to give flowers and congratulatory messages to the seniors. It is a welcomed sendoff to those whom they have looked up to. 

In terms of attire for the ceremony, guys will typically wear a formal suit for the ceremony. However, the ladies wear a special outfit known as a hakama. During the ceremony, it is a tradition for graduates to perform choreographed routines, sing, and have parades to celebrate. The Japanese school year is also a bit different from American culture. Graduation usually takes place in March instead of May or June. 

Finland Graduates Bring Swords to Celebrate Commencement

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This Finnish graduation tradition may take the cake for most out-of-the-box! For those getting their doctorate degrees, the Finnish people bring actual swords to their graduation ceremonies. It’s an actual requirement. This sword is appropriately called the Doctor’s Sword in honor of the “freedom of research” and “the fight for what is good, right, and true.” 

The requirements for this sword are very strict in Finland. The only sword allowed is the certified civilian sword of Finland. The sword comes with a black or golden clip and a scabbard to properly carry the sword. It also must be worn on the left side of the body. For men, they must wear the sword in a clip within their trousers. Whatever outfit they choose to wear, women have to wear a matching belt to carry their swords in. However, if a female graduate doesn’t want to carry the sword on her outfit, she can carry it in her hand. The swords aren’t used to actually fight…at least not during the official ceremony. Whatever happens after that is up in the air.