Rings & Stoles

Do you ever wonder why we do the traditions we do at graduation? From wearing a cap and gown to purchasing class rings, where these traditions came from and why they started? Take a look at these graduation fun facts to understand why these traditions came to be:

  • In the 1100’s the graduation gown came into play. Scholars began wearing long robes with hoods to serve as protection from the cold in church buildings. These church buildings were used as universities. Gowns represent “gradus” which relates to degrees/graduation.
  • By the 1400’s the graduation cap was born. The graduation cap was formed from a cap that is worn by traditional Catholic clerks, scholars and professors. The cap is a sign of superiority and intelligence.
  • Around the same time that the cap was created so was the use of sashes and stoles at graduation. The tradition of wearing a sash or stoles to represent your membership or association with an organization can be traced back to medieval times.
  • In 1832 class rings began to take popularity. As a representation of belonging to a group it signifies school pride and symbolizes entering the “real world.” Class rings are meant to be worn on the third finger on the right hand which relates to good luck and strength.
  • About 100 years ago a graduate’s diploma was made from sheepskin. These diplomas were written by hand and tied with a ribbon as a seal. As a rite of passage to accept your diploma on stage, it created the phrase “hanging your sheepskin on the wall” to show off your level of education earned.
  • 1912 began the tradition of throwing your cap. At this time the United States Navy granted new graduates with their officer’s hats. After four years of wearing the midshipmen’s hats they threw their old hats in the air. Other graduates began to copy this and the tradition was born.

Okay so maybe I’ve began to accept the fact that graduating is inevitable, but these facts are pretty interesting. Who knew that some graduation traditions only began about a century ago. Perhaps some new traditions will form in the upcoming years or even this year at my own graduation.


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