Commencement, a Rite of Passage

I dragged myself out of bed the morning of October 22nd at 6:30 am, bleary eyed and fatigued, to get ready for the commencement ceremony taking place in Waterloo (which started at 10 am).  I slipped into the pre-steamed and hung outfit prepared from the previous night, climbed into my dad’s massive FJ Cruiser, and made the drive to Waterloo… sipping coffee from my travel mug in attempts to fight off the drowsiness.  The whole process was, well to be quite frank, long and tiring.  Then again, it felt good to finally, – after countless speeches and introductions – kneel down on stage in front of the Chancellor, shaking his hand and telling him that I was well on my way with my career choice (which is teaching by the way), and then accepting my degree as I went off the stage.  My parents were beaming, and even though I could not spot them in the crowds of families and friends, they could definitely see me.  The many photos can attest to that.  I was half expecting them to wave me down, shouting “FAAARRRRAAAAHHH” really loud.  But, they didn’t.  However, if they had done so they would not have been alone.  From my vantage point, a lot of parents were standing and waving, calling out their son’s or daughter’s name.  It was such a proud moment for both graduates and their family and friends!  I’m not going to lie, sitting down for three hours was brutal.  But, I couldn’t help but think of how this whole ceremony began, how deeply rooted the tradition of Graduating was.   Needless to say, I was itching to write in my black moleskin notebook.

So naturally, after a well needed nap (taken as soon as we got back), I started googling “the history of graduating ceremonies” and other such derivatives.  I found an interesting article which outlines and gives brief details on the history of the ceremony, for example where the Academic Regalia was supposed to have originated from.  According to the author, Jaci Rea, the hood originates from the Celtic Groups or more specifically the Druid priests who wore capes with hoods.  These hoods signalled to others their “superiority and higher intelligence”.  It makes sense why they would use this hood for graduates as their hoods distinguish their respective academic institution, faculty, and degree.  Here is a video where someone from the US is showing the viewers how to put on the hood, and it is so drastically different from how we draped ours.  I can’t help but think, is our graduation regalia different from our southern neighbours?  Ours is inverted, going around the neck loosely and then draped along the shoulders (refer to the picture of me below).  But in the states, the front clings to the neck and drapes loosely at the back, looking like an actual hood.  I’m not going to lie, as I was researching further and further, I just got more confused!  I wish there was a website that outlined the different Graduation regalia based on countries because apparently it slightly varies across the globe.  Don’t even get me started on Graduation Stoles… which are completely different from the hoods.  (If you are interested in finding out more, click here for an article about them).

…[pause]… I have realized that I –might- be alone in this interest in finding out the history behind this structured ceremony.  It’s not my fault that I think about everything, I’m just curious by nature.  If anyone has details about the different graduation regalia, please comment or get in touch with me!


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