By AMELIA MCCARTHY
With many graduations just around the bend, students and parents alike are preparing for one of the most significant events in a student’s life. Caps are being decorated, Pomp and Circumstance is being rehearsed, and parents are charging up their cameras. However, in other countries they do things a bit differently. Here are the top five unique graduation traditions from around the world.
Wedding Dresses (China): With fewer set-in-stone traditions, chinese graduates take the opportunity to make their own. In recent years women have started to rent wedding dresses for the celebration. The look is completed with tiaras, bejeweled diadems and veils. Lu Xiaowen, deputy director of the Institute of Sociology at Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, says college graduates are enjoying “a last burst of freedom and creativity.” With stiff job competition, tiny rented apartments and the responsibility of taking care of older relatives, graduation is not the start of freedom like it is here, but rather, the end.
All You Can Drink Champagne (Sweden): At the beginning of June, Swedish graduates don their traditional white graduation hat (studentmössa) and attend a champagne breakfast in someone’s house or yard. After the official ceremony, the graduates meet their families outside, who are accentuating their position with a big sign of the graduate as a baby. They then pile on to make-shift truck beds/ parade floats and spend all day drinking champagne, singing and yelling. Luckily, the drinking age is 18, so it’s perfectly legal.
One Sided Food Fight (Argentina) American graduation celebrations often feature things like family dinners, presents and congratulatory balloons, all in the effort of celebrating the hard work of the graduate. Argentinian traditions tend to be more fun for the family and friends than the student. Family members armed with ketchup, mayonnaise, eggs, flour, etc ascertain the date and location of the graduate’s last exam and attack as soon as they come out of the building. They might even bring scissors to cut the graduate’s clothes and hair, creating a rather interesting photo op.
Russ (Norway): Right before graduation those ambling, lagging days of final lessons are made interesting in Norway. Norwegian soon-to-be graduates challenge each other to a russ– certain dares, that, for the most part, are harmless, and within the classroom setting. These include sitting under the desks during class, yelling out random phrases, etc. Skeptics of this Norwegian custom question the supposed peer pressure taking place while kids challenge each other to a russ, and the fact that this wild season of russ takes place right before finals, rather than after, since some dares call for soon-to-be graduates to be a bit more… audacious. Nevertheless, the tradition has prevailed through a few generations of dubiety!
Laurea (Italy): From Northern Italy comes the graduation tradition involving strange costumes, intoxication, and general public abasement. After the completion of the last exam (literally, after stepping out of the doors of their exam location) northern Italians anticipate an embarrassing ceremonial process.
This tradition is called Laurea, the name deriving from the Laurea, which used to be the highest degree an Italian could achieve.
Immediately after the doors of the test room fling open and a student emerges, they are mobbed by family and friends, and stripped down to their underwear. The mob then dresses the student in costume: an animal suit, cross-gender clothing, or garbage bags. Finally, the student is crowned a laurel wreath, topped with a red bow.
Following the bombardment, each graduate is presented with their scroll (referred to as il papiro in Italian). The scroll contains a rhyming epic of the student’s journey, beginning with birth, and including embarrassing moments, as well as a photograph of the student’s head atop a caricature body with grossly exaggerated features. The scroll is to be hung in the university, and to the students’ dismay, it must be read aloud.
The mob then chooses a public area and forces the student to read their scroll aloud. Though there is a catch to this already humiliating moment… half of this scroll is written Veneto dialect. Italians are taught to read and write classic Italian, and though they often can comprehend spoken-Veneto dialect, they wouldn’t commonly recognize the written language. There are many mispronunciations during the reading, and the just-graduates are encouraged to drink each time this happens.
Finally, the graduate is allowed to wear normal clothing, and more colloquial celebrations are practiced: confetti, dinner, and gifts.
So as you’re sitting in a tedious ceremony, be thankful you have a minimal chance to be attacked with sticky substances or publicly humiliated through costumes and public speaking. That said, there are plenty of opportunities for parents to show embarrassing baby pictures to family and friends, so perhaps humiliation won’t be evaded after all.
Amelia McCarthy is a high school intern for Spotlight Newspapers. However, this week we congratulate her, and fellow intern Jillian Crocetta, as they graduate from Bethlehem Central High School this week.