Graduation day in Sweden is the opposite of how I have always known graduations to be. Each student was allowed three guests. Some people got a few flowers or balloons. Very calm and formal. We wore long black robes and a flat square hat with a tassel that hung in our faces. Laughing and crying as we walked down the aisle of the large auditorium, then we listened to a stuffy speech- knowing all we want to do is throw our hats in the air, go outside and take photos with friends and family. Unlike the Swedish graduation I got to see on Friday, ours was not an exciting spectacle for everyone in the neighborhood to watch and celebrate.
At a distance all you can see is a sea of blue and white student hats (resembling sailor hats) being driven around town by trucks and tractors – constantly beeping their horns to draw attention. I could hear it all from a 15 minute walk away. The graduates are blowing whistles and horns of their own; shouting, dancing, and singing to blaring music. Each truck or tractor (there were maybe 8) is decorated with balloons, leaves, branches, and a hand painted sign made by the now-former-students. Their mobile dance party drives around town for about an hour, causing commotion and getting attention.
When the tractor & truck joy ride finally comes to an end the teens come rushing into town in groups, still singing, dancing, and yelling. Some have boomboxes on their shoulder to keep the party going. Some are talking through megaphones, many are still blowing horns and whistles. For the most part the guys are wearing suits and the girls are wearing short white dresses. The student cap (studentmössa) is the only official part of the graduation outfit, since the mid-1800’s.
The streets are lined with hundreds of people proudly holding up large signs – a baby picture of their graduate. Some are cute, some are embarrassing. Each sign has the name of the graduate in large print along with the year and date – most are decorated in blue and yellow.
Some people are holding balloons, flowers, and stuffed animals – these too, are mostly blue and yellow. All of the presents have have long (blue and yellow) ribbons attached to them, because each present is actually a necklace. By the end of the event, each graduate resembles a piñata.
It was amazing to see how many people were there to celebrate, if they knew a graduate or not. It is a very fun spectacle each year, especially for someone who has never seen anything like it. Swedes know how to celebrate graduation! I’m just happy it didn’t rain the whole time because I didn’t stick around after that.