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The History of Graduation
by Brenda Arnold
graduation is full of pomp and circumstanceThe graduation ceremony is a cultural tradition that is considered a rite of passage. The ceremony marks a transition from one stage in a student’s life to another. Graduation is that final celebration of success for students who have completed all of their academic requirements. This is a time of tradition and celebration for the whole student community.

The Baccalaureate Ceremony origin is said to go back to 1432. The first Baccalaureate Ceremony commenced at Oxford University. At that time each student was required to deliver a sermon in Latin as part of his academic applications.


The baccalaureate ceremony is considered the highlight of the school year. It is especially a time to formally recognize the achievements of students who are in honor societies and who have earned academic excellence.

Academic dress for graduations started in the 12th and 13th centuries when universities first began forming. Whether a student or a teacher, standard dress for scholars was clerical garb. Most medieval scholars had made certain vows, and had at least taken minor orders with the church so clerical robes were their main form of dress to begin with.

Prior to the 1950’s the color of the graduation gown was gray. This was practiced only in the U.S. Colors in European countries were used as far back as the 1800s to signify the area of study. Sometime during the 1950’s students began to ask for cap and gowns that represented their school colors. Their wish was granted and the emergence of varying colors used for gowns caught on.

“Pomp and Circumstance” was first performed on October 19, 1901 in Liverpool, England. As the students commence onto the stage they are handed their diplomas and given a handshake. It is at that point the students flip the tassels on their hats.

Graduation Symbols: What we call today a "cap," which is worn by students and faculty in some cases, used to be called a "hood." The "hood" is believed to be dated back to the Celtic Groups. At that time in history only the Druid priests wore capes with hoods, symbolizing their superiority and higher intelligence.

Today, the "hood" or "cap" is used to identify the student's academic institution and degree . The tassel that is attached (and sometimes the color of the cap and gown or scarf) is used to signify the student's academic achievement within the academic structure

Graduation Customs:  The graduation commencement ceremonies usually begin with speeches from faculty or special speakers, which may include the actual students and music. Afterwards the graduates names are called one by one as “Pomp and Circumstance” is traditionally played. Not every ceremony follows this tradition.

We celebrate graduation with a huge party. The grads family and friends come together give speeches and toast to the new grad. Now the grad is embarking a upon a new life.
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