• May 13, 2015


It’s graduation season again and we love all the great traditions that are a part of it. But where did all of the traditions come from?

The processional music, that familiar melody that goes BUMMM-bump-bah-bah-BUMMM-bum…is "Land of Hope and Glory" and it is actually a British patriotic song written in 1902. Created originally by Edward Elgar for King Edward VII’s coronation ceremony the easily recognizable melody was played the 1905 commencement ceremony at Yale University to honor the composer as he was being given an honorary degree. In 1907 Princeton adopted the tune for its graduation ceremony and other universities quickly followed.

The use of the graduation gown dates back to the 12th century. With no central heating Universities were chilly places and to keep warm the graduating students started to wear long robes at the graduation ceremony. In the 14th century the mortarboard cap was added. It is called a mortarboard because of its resemblance to the tool used by bricklayers to hold mortar.  The hat is a horizontal square board fixed upon a skullcap, with the tassel attached on the top in the center. And turning the tassel? That’s a relatively new custom, only 40 or 50 years old. Originally the tassel was just a decorative feature but now when the student moves the tassel from one side of the mortarboard to the other it symbolizes the student’s progression from academic candidate to graduate. Before the ceremony the tassel is worn on the right. After receiving the diploma the tassel is moved to the left side of the cap. So educational achievement is what always “what turns our tassel”.