In the U.S., the months of May and June revolve around graduations. High schools and colleges honor the accomplishments of their senior classes with elaborate ceremonies, awards, and celebrations.
The robes traditionally worn by graduates at commencement exercises date back to the Middle Ages. Originally, they may have been worn for warmth, but over time the colors, shapes and lengths of the robes, hoods and caps all developed specific meanings. High school graduates typically wear their school colors, whereas those receiving Bachelors or Masters degrees typically wear black robes, with the color of the hood relating to their field of study. The robes worn by students obtaining a Ph.D. have vertical velvet strips on the front, as well as velvet rings around the sleeves.
The tradition of a commencement speaker goes back a long time as well. Originally, students and faculty spoke at graduations, as oratory was a major focus of the educational experience. “Over time, however, oratory began to lose its place as a central skill students were expected to acquire at college. Accordingly, their students’ displays of knowledge became a smaller part of the commencement exercises. To fill the gap, in came the guest speakers.”
Every school adds a personal touch to their ceremonies, whether it be playing a certain song, having certain school administrators speak, or by issuing student awards.