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Celebration History

Today’s graduation ceremony is the modern equivalent of the ancient rite of passage from youth into adulthood celebrated in many tribes and clans. Commencement is the contemporary way to acknowledge that an important milestone has passed. Early degree ceremonies took place in the mid-12th century at the University of Bologna, and soon after, at Paris, Oxford and Cambridge. Harvard was the first American college to hold a commencement ceremony in 1642.

Graduation gowns reflect the general manner of dress in the late Middle Ages and Renaissance period. Many are black, although the gowns used in many high school ceremonies reflect the school’s colors. The sleeves of a collegiate graduation gown indicate the level of the graduate’s degree. The four-sided graduation cap first appeared in 16th century Scotland. It originally was known as a “trencher” cap, because it looked like an inverted serving board – a trencher – with a bowl on it.

High school graduates of today began wearing the now traditional commencement cap and gown in 1908.


Greeting Cards

Hallmark offers more than 500 graduation card designs – many featuring the graduation year – and include cards for:

  • Professions (nursing, law, medical doctor, pharmacist, veterinarian, dentist).
  • Post-graduate degrees (doctorate, master’s and MBA).
  • High school and college.
  • Pre-school, kindergarten, grade school, middle school and junior high.
  • Teachers, coaches, grad-to-grad and parents of the graduate.
  • The cards range from serious, complimentary, success-oriented and inspirational to humorous. High school and college cards tend to focus on accomplishments and good wishes for the future.

In addition to graduation, cards are also available that recognize certifications, achievements and completions. Card prices start at 99 cents. provides graduation ecards to send to friends and family, too, available with a subscription.

In Stores & Online

Available at Hallmark Gold Crown® stores nationwide, online at and wherever Hallmark products are sold. Use the store locator on to find the nearest Hallmark Gold Crown retailer.