Cigars on Graduation Day

Informant: Sebastian Williamson. 21 years old. Born in Mexico. My brother and USC student.

Informant:“Sophomore year of high school I went to a boarding school in Concord, New Hampshire. One of the traditions at St. Paul’s is that when the seniors graduate they smoke cigars on the lawn after receiving their diplomas. I had never seen this ritual before. I remember seeing the seniors smoking cigars with their fellow graduates, taking pictures with their parents, and showing off their diplomas. A friend explained to me that the father buys the cigar—usually an expensive one—to signify a rite of passage into adulthood. Some of the teachers are not too happy with this tradition as smoking is prohibited on campus, yet this tradition is an exception. It has been such an old tradition in boarding schools that the administration accepts it. It is really a symbol of maturity and the next chapter in one’s life. I left boarding school after that year and finished high school in Mexico. When I graduated, I actually decided to smoke a cigar. Even though I was only at St. Paul’s school for one year, I wanted to bring a part of that experience to my graduation in Mexico. HA! What’s funny is that the school’s principal told me I couldn’t smoke so I just took several pictures.”

Thoughts: The cigar ritual at boarding schools is very traditional and old. Just like my brother, I went to boarding school but actually graduated from there. After receiving my diploma, I went to the lawn and smoked a cigar with my friends. This tradition of smoking cigars after graduation is a good example of a ritual done in order to enter into adulthood. Interestingly, my father didn’t buy me the cigar as I never told him about the tradition so I had to find an extra one from a friend. My brothers experience is really unique. His decision to smoke the cigar in Mexico was more about wanting to keep in touch with his boarding school tradition and I thought it was a great idea. In Mexico, since this tradition does not exist it makes sense that the administration got mad.