From human sacrifices and animal offerings to rain dances, weddings, birthdays, and graduations, human beings have long participated in rituals and ritualistic behavior. Since human sacrifices are frowned upon these days, the modern-day American (thankfully) sticks to a plethora of well-adopted and accepted rituals to mark important moments in a person’s life.
Every society has rituals. The word itself comes from the word “rite” and derives from the Latin “ritualis,” which means that which pertains to rite. Human beings have used rituals to mark accomplishments, beginnings, ends, religious celebrations, and more. The word itself comes from “rite.” Our society has adopted a long list of rituals that give meaning and mark significant events in a person’s life.
One of those rituals is a graduation ceremony and—who could forget—the graduation party. And as your major party-planning headquarters, we thought we’d dive into the history of graduations, parties, and just where all the hat-throwing-tassel-turning quirks began.
The Ritual of Graduations and How They Have Changed
Graduation ceremonies today involve large arenas or stadiums accommodating large crowds of people including a large roster of graduates, balloon-ridden vehicles, caps and gowns, graduation-themed plush toys, cupcakes, speeches, the tune of “Pomp and Circumstance,” and all kinds of fun stuff.
Graduations were not always this elaborate, however. According to a study conducted on graduation ceremonies, in the 1930s the focus of graduations was invocation and benediction. The schools would often place most of the senior class on stage. Ceremonies were far more solemn and straightforward.
The High School Graduation
Today’s education has changed dramatically from what it was even 100 years ago. In the early 20th century, education was often put on the backburner for work—as families had to make ends meet by having children working. Other students had to travel long distances to get to school, sometimes riding for miles before arriving at a small one or two-room schoolhouse. Different age groups were often taught together. Not to mention the segregation of schools up to the mid 20th century.
In the 1920s, the high school as we know it today was barely taking hold. Today, it is not uncommon for a senior graduating class to be 300-500 students, while one hundred years ago a graduating class might have 20-50 students.
Popular graduation rituals in 1930:
- A graduating class play
- Senior picnic
- Junior-senior banquet
High schools today all have their different traditions. Each one of them builds up to the culminating moment that is the graduation ceremony.
Unique Graduation Rituals Across the Country
From racing wooden hoops down the street to throwing hats up in the air, there are plenty of graduation traditions that happen every single year as young people celebrate their rite of passage and successful graduation from high school or college.
The cap and gown: The early universities were often religious institutions and, lo and behold, the cap and gown derived from this tradition. Graduates of these early institutions of higher learning wore gowns to differentiate themselves from the townspeople.
The mortarboard hat: Some sources suggest this was derived from square-shaped birettas worn in the 15th century by Catholic clerics and scholars.
Pomp and Circumstance: The unmistakable universally-recognized graduation song written by a Briton. English composer Sir Edward Elgar wrote March No.1 in D in 1901 for a Promenade concert.
How to Have an Unforgettable Out-of-this-World Graduation Party
So with all this history in mind, how do you have a graduation party that truly marks the end of an era for your high school senior or proud college grad? How do you tap into the ritualistic impulse? Here are a few tips:
- Ditch the fads, and consider what is important to your grad. Base the theme on something they are passionate about. Are they obsessed with Star Wars? Basketball? Did they graduate with a medical degree? Use this as a kickoff point to find unique ideas that will set the theme.
- Find a theme and keep it simple. It doesn’t take much to achieve a little creativity. There are hundreds and thousands of ideas out there about graduation-themed decorations but stick to one or two decorations that will stand out.
- Creative finger foods and desserts. A little creativity goes a long way when it comes to what people snack on. From wine cubes to graduation-themed cupcakes, candy buffets, and more. Take these treats:
- Chocolate-Dipped Waffle Bites
- Fruit pizza bites!
- Chocolate dipped pretzel rods
- Chocolate dipped fruit
- Chocolate dipped anything actually
- Homemade decorations with a personal touch. It doesn’t have to cost hundreds of dollars to create a memorable photo collage, class photo banner, etc.
- Plan games or creative rituals. Use family traditions or memories to come up with games that can keep your party-goers engaged and entertained.
Don’t Forget Party Supplies for the Special Day
No party is complete without the necessary supplies. Party Bowl has you covered. From glassware to stages, table linens, dishware, and more. As graduation day approaches and the world slowly opens up, it’s time to find the party supplies for your outdoor or indoor gathering. Planning a party? Call Party Bowl and make the planning easier.