Swedish Graduation Custom

“When people graduate from high school, it is one of the most important days in someone’s life. It’s called ‘studenten.’ The idea is in Swedish if you are a ‘student,’ you are a graduate that year, and ‘studenten’ is ‘graduation.’ Alright, so, there is kind of a framework for that day: it starts early in the morning at about nine, everyone has a hat that looks exactly like a captain’s hat. It even has the small shield in front and white puffiness. Everyone’s dressed up…guys in suits, and girls in white dresses. This is when you are 18 or 19, so you will generally be old enough to drink. So after the pictures, there is a champagne breakfast. Then you eat strawberries. That’s usually at school, the drinking part. Parents are not there yet…just classmates. Then we go to a park in the city, and other graduates from other schools are also there. It can even carry on for days and days,  that is the period when different schools are ending at different times. You continue drinking at the park with these other students. And then, for lunch, you usually go have lunch with your teachers. It’s usually held at a nice venue. Everyone’s together drinking together and eating lunch. The lunch usually last 2-3 hours, and people speak about the last 3 years (high school is 3 in Sweden.) You kinda joke around…it’s basically joking about nostalgia. Then you go to the bar, or park…whatever it is, you’re drinking. So you continue drinking until ‘utsläppet,’ which is when students run from inside the school out onto a stage outside, where everyone is gathered (not just parents or immediate family, but the extended family, the whole sha-bam. And so you basically stand on this elevated platform or whatever for 3-4 minutes just shouting and still holding champagne glasses. After, you get flowers and gifts, and thin ribbon in blue and yellow…everything is blue and yellow (Swedish flag.) Then you go home, where the parents have generally been preparing dinner all day. All the students take off to ride around the city…at any given day during this period, traffic can be stopped. And people have all done this before, so they’ll walk up to you and scream, and you scream back. After the ride, there is dinner…at mine there were about 35 people. Then you get more gifts, usually more expensive gifts. By this time everyone is just wasted…parents are celebrating that their child made it, you are happy because you are now an adult, and everyone is just happy. Those dinners usually last from 6 or 7 until 9 or 10pm. Then you go to night clubs with other graduates. When you are done, you have been pretty much been drinking for 24 hours. There is saying, ‘If you remember your studenten, you didn’t do it properly.’ By the time you get home from the night club, the family is gone, and you crash. It’s the most important day of your life.”

The informant and I had completely the same views of this tradition. It is definitely a part of the life cycle and partaking in the liminal stage of transition from childhood into adulthood. The details of the celebration reveal the values held important to those partaking in the tradition. The Swedish colors represent nationalism, the pride of being a Swedish citizen and fulfilling your duty after having been educated to the social well-being of the country. In the United States, a very capitalistic country in which the individual surmounts the community, we do not celebrate graduation adorned in red, white, and blue, but rather with what we want to wear, or what identifies us with our classmates and school (school colors). Finally, this level of celebration indicates the importance placed on education and one’s ability to contribute to society as an educated adult.