Graduation as a ceremonial event as well as a superhero costume parade
Whether you’ve just started studying or you’re almost ready to pass your finals, a graduation ceremony awaits you. In order to prepare for this special event, we bring you some interesting and useful information about the whole thing.
A graduation ceremony is a ceremonial event where university graduates receive their diploma and get their academic or scientific degree. It’s a formal conclusion of one’s studies. Graduation ceremonies might not have a legal value but they do have a very long tradition.
What’s the ceremony about?
A graduation ceremony is attended by graduates, their families and school representatives. There’s always a promoter who starts the ceremony, hands over diplomas and ends the event. It’s usually a professor but some schools entrust this role also to famous people and celebrities to make the ceremony more lively and modern.
There’s also a rector, a vice-rector, a dean or a vice-dean and a beadle—a person carrying the university’s ceremonial mace. After these people ceremonially enter the room, there’s a national anthem playing. A dean of a particular faculty has a speech and graduates express gratitude for the education they received.
Then the graduates are called one by one. First, they stop by the beadle and promise over the mace to do their profession responsibly. They also promise to educate themselves even further and to honour their university. After that the graduates receive their diplomas in blue folders, those who graduated with honours in red ones. Some schools practice a well-known throwing of academic caps into the air.
What’s the fuss with those funny caps and gowns?
The whole event shows clear traces of religious ceremonies. After all, universities used to be a part of the Church and even though they eventually became independent, ceremonial academic gowns and caps remained.
The original Latin word for an academic gown means ‘a heel’ because the robe must be long enough to cover the wearer’s legs entirely. Gowns used to have mainly practical function because they kept students warm inside cold university buildings. People who put on academic gowns also show that they decided to dedicate their lives to something significant.
A beadle wears the nicest gown and cap to represent the ruler with their mace. Square academic caps are an international symbol for education. However, not every Czech university considers them to be a traditional part of the graduation ceremony so sometimes they aren’t used at all.
What do all those special terms you hear during the ceremony actually mean?
SPECTABILIS = a Latin word for ‘a dean’
MAGNIFICENCE = a Latin word for ‘a rector’
HONORABILIS = a Latin word for ‘a vice-dean’ or ‘a vice-rector’
ALMA MATER = a Latin word meaning ‘a nourishing mother’
SPONDEO AC POLLICEOR = a Latin term meaning ‘I promise / I pledge’
GAUDEAMUS IGITUR = an unofficial student anthem about youth and studenthood that is usually played during the ceremony
What does the etiquette prescribe?
It’s a good manner of every graduate to invite their closest relatives not only to the ceremony itself but also to the celebratory lunch after it. Some schools prescribe that their graduates must put on academic gowns and caps; others require just formal clothes and shoes. During the ceremony, relatives can take photos only from their seats because there’re usually a professional photographer and a cameraman present. Students can buy the recording and photos from them.
Female students especially should get flowers from their family because it’s considered to be the best way to congratulate. Other presents are given at the celebratory lunch.
What about graduation ceremonies abroad?
In English-speaking countries like the USA, Canada and Australia, graduation ceremonies tend to be very similar. Since graduation ceremonies are originally a European custom, these countries took them for their own and made them popular. The biggest difference is that whereas in the Czech Republic these ceremonies take place at fancy places that are historically significant to particular universities, in the USA, Canada and Australia graduation ceremonies can take place whenever, for instance, outside the school or in the school gym.
Still, in these parts of the world people cannot imagine a graduation ceremony without traditional academic gowns and caps. On the contrary, in the Western Europe like in Denmark and France, they decided to stop using these ‘obsolete’ robes. It’s a little bit ironic that in Denmark and France the most typical graduation present is a square academic cap. Students want to take photos wearing them at least after the official ceremony.
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You might be surprised that graduation ceremonies in China and Japan aren’t that much different. In their attempt to adopt Western and mainly American customs, they assimilated this one as well. The only exception is the Kanazawa College of Art in Japan where students can wear anything that expresses their unique style. They can receive diplomas wearing costumes of Mario, Snoopy, a robot, a mummy and many others. This custom got so popular that tons of journalists and TV crews attend as well.