High School Graduation Traditions

High school graduation traditions play a crucial role in the milestone for students and their families. It is a time to celebrate accomplishments, reflect on memories, and look toward the future. 

Along with this momentous occasion comes various traditions passed down through generations of high school graduates. 

These traditions serve as a way to honor students’ hard work and dedication to their education and to bring the community together in a shared celebration. 

From the classic cap and gown to the tossing of mortarboards, graduation traditions have become a rite of passage for students worldwide. 

This article will explore some of the most common and beloved high school graduation traditions. Moreover, we will examine their significance in this important milestone.

High school graduation traditions

Common High School Graduation Traditions

The cap and gown are one of the most iconic symbols of high school graduation. Graduates wear traditional garments in school colors to signify their academic achievements. 

The cap is typically a mortarboard, a flat square hat with a tassel. The graduates move the tassel from the right to the left side of the cap during the ceremony. 

Moreover, the gown is a long robe with sleeves and a hood that varies in color based on the degree earned. Wearing the cap and gown is a way for graduates to show unity and respect for their academic institution. The tradition of wearing these garments dates back to the Middle Ages.

During the graduation ceremony, graduates typically walk in a processional into the ceremony hall or auditorium, accompanied by music. This procession signifies the beginning of the ceremony and serves as a way to honor the graduates. 

Furthermore, the national anthem is often sung at the beginning of the ceremony. Followed by speeches from distinguished guests, faculty members, and the valedictorian and salutatorian. These speeches often inspire and encourage the graduates as they embark on the next phase of their lives.

One of the highlights of the graduation ceremony is the presentation of diplomas. Graduates walk across the stage to receive their diplomas from the principal or other school officials, often accompanied by cheers and applause from family and friends. 

Another popular tradition during graduation ceremonies is the tossing of the mortarboard. As the ceremony ends, graduates often throw their caps into the air as a symbol of their achievement and to signify the end of their high school careers. This tradition is a fun and also memorable way to cap off the ceremony, often accompanied by cheers and applause from the audience.

How Traditions Have Changed Over Time

High school graduation traditions have certainly evolved over the years. Back in the day, it was a simpler affair, with most ceremonies taking place in the school gymnasium or auditorium. Read more about “where graduation ceremonies are held” in my other article!

The focus was on the students, with speeches, awards, and diplomas being handed out. However, as time passed, graduation ceremonies became more extensive and elaborate, with many schools choosing to hold their ceremonies in larger venues like arenas or stadiums. 

These days, it’s not uncommon for high school graduations to feature celebrity guest speakers, musical performances, and even fireworks displays. 

Despite all these changes, though, one thing remains the same. Graduation is a time to celebrate our young people’s hard work and achievements as they embark on their next phase.

Foreign Cultures And Countries

High school graduations are celebrated in various ways in different cultures and countries. While some traditions may be similar to those in the United States, there are often unique customs that reflect the local culture and values. Here are some examples.


In Japan, high school graduations are known as sotsugyōshiki and are often held in late February or early March. Graduates wear a school uniform or formal attire and participate in a ceremony that includes speeches. In addition to musical performances, and the presentation of certificates. At the end of the ceremony, the graduates throw their hats into the air and sing the school song.

South Korea

In South Korea, high school graduation ceremonies are called seunghaksik and are usually held in February or March. 

Graduates wear a traditional Korean hanbok or formal attire and receive graduation certificates. They also participate in cultural performances, speeches, and photo sessions. Graduates often go out to eat or celebrate with friends.


In Mexico, high school graduations are called graduations de bachillerato and are typically held in late May or early June. Graduates wear formal attire and participate in a mass or religious ceremony, followed by a formal ceremony where they receive their diplomas. In addition, there may be a dance or party for graduates and their families.


In Sweden, high school graduations are called ta studenten and are usually held in early June. Graduates wear white caps and overalls decorated with classmates’ messages. 

The day begins with a procession through the city, followed by a ceremony at the school where students receive their diplomas. There is also a picnic or party for graduates and their families.


In Brazil, high school graduations are called formaturas and are typically held in December or January. Graduates wear formal attire and participate in a ceremony that includes speeches, musical performances, and the presentation of diplomas.

Moreover, after the ceremony, there may be a dinner or party for graduates and their families.


In the Philippines, high school graduations are called moving-up ceremonies and are often held in March or April. Furthermore, graduates wear formal attire and participate in a ceremony that includes speeches, musical performances, and the presentation of certificates. 

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, high school graduation traditions are an essential part of the academic journey. They also serve as a celebration of the hard work and dedication that students have put into their education. 

From the cap and gown to the speeches and ceremonies, each element of the graduation tradition holds a special significance in recognizing the accomplishments of the graduates.

These traditions provide a sense of closure and accomplishment and an opportunity to reflect on the experiences and memories made during the high school years.

As the world continues to evolve, so too will the ways in which high school graduations are celebrated. However, the significance of this milestone in a young person’s life will remain timeless.

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