I went to an official Finnish university ceremony today. I found out that, first of all, there is no college graduation ceremony in Finland – you just kind of get your degree and that’s it (although every four years after that there is a “promotion” ceremony). But instead of getting a robe and a hood (like happens in the US), you get a hat (that looks like a velvety top hat – somehow it is a symbol of freedom) and at one of the promotion ceremonies you get a sword (a symbol of the sword of knowledge, I believe). Feel free to correct me, if I am wrong about any of this.

The sword part is pretty cool, huh?

Much better than New Zealand at least, where a man from there said all they get is a bright red floppy hat, that I kind of imagine looks like a wimpy pirate hat. But I guess New Zealand has so much else good going for it, that PhD apparel probably isn’t a big concern of theirs.

The ceremony today was very somber, no smiling really even, and the woman who was translating for me said she thinks the somberness comes from the Finish Lutheran tradition of putting off this life so that you could have a much better after-life. She was funny and told me that she thought most people endured the ceremony for the refreshments, but I think that is typical of most countries 🙂 I wondered if part of the somberness was because you were afraid someone was going to whip out their sword.

Actually, maybe the PhD sword is how the professors keep order in the Finnish classrooms? I should check into that…