(ABC4) – Graduation season has started with many traditions officially underway. Some of these traditions go back centuries.
Ever wonder where these long-held traditions come from? Let’s take a closer look at the origins of these graduations customs that have defined our celebrations for so many years.
The Graduation Cap
Universities first started forming in the 12th and 13th centuries. The modern-day graduation cap is suspected to have developed and evolved from birettas. A religious hat used by Catholic scholars and professors.
The Graduation Gown
Many universities during the Middle Ages had poor heating, so students wore long gowns with hoods to keep warm. The gown and hood attire also became associated with the church since many professors were priests, monks, or clerics.
The first schools to officiate graduation attire were Oxford and Cambridge in order to create unity during ceremonies.
The Class Ring
The first-class ring appeared in 1835 when the U.S. Military Academy West Point had them made. This eventually caught on with other schools and became an individual recognition of achievement.
The Graduation Song
The song you hear when graduates receive their diploma is called “Pomp and Circumstance.” The piece was written by Sir Edward Elgar in 1901, to celebrate the crowning of King Edward the VII.
When Sir Edgar received an honorary doctorate from Yale University in 1905, “Pomp and Circumstance” was played to honor his achievement. The piece caught on at other commencements and continued to be the anthem of graduation ceremonies.
Diplomas were originally handwritten on paper-thin sheep skin before being rolled and tied with a ribbon. The practice ended over 100 years ago, but the tradition still holds as graduates receive rolled parchment paper to represent the diploma that will be mailed to them after the ceremony.
The tassel has been used to represent academic regalia for centuries. Only in the last few decades did the tradition of turning the tassel become customary.
At the high school level, the tassel is worn on the right side at the start of the ceremony and is moved to the left once diplomas are received.
Throwing the Cap
Tossing the graduation cap in the air was started by the U.S. Naval Academy in 1912. The graduates would spend two years as midshipmen and had to always wear a designated hat. Once the graduation ended, the midshipman would become officers and would no longer need their old hats.
The graduates would throw their hats in the air as they would be receiving their new officer hats. This caught on which resulted in the tradition of throwing the cap.