Is it realizing our kids have worked hard to achieve their goal?
Is it tears of relief that they made it?
Or tears of sadness that our little ones are all grown up?
Maybe. Could be. Perhaps.
Personally, I think it’s the song. Gets me every time.
When Sir Edward Elgar composed Pomp & Circumstance in 1901, I’m sure he had no clue that it would be such a huge cap ‘n gown hit. The title comes from a line in Shakespeare’s Othello (“Pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war!”) but it wasn’t originally intended for graduations. Elgar’s march was used for the coronation of King Edward VII.
It first became associated with graduations in 1905; it was played as a recessional when Elgar received an honorary doctorate from Yale University.
After Yale used the tune, Princeton used it, then the University of Chicago, then Columbia, and eventually… everybody started using it. It just became the thing that you had to graduate to.
How is it that a song–one without words, no less–can have such be such an emotional trigger for us parents?
Pretty obvious answer, I think. We hear it at graduation and graduation signifies all those things I mentioned above–our kids have worked hard to achieve a goal, we are relieved they made it to this milestone, and we feel sad that our little ones all really truly all grown up.
Simple notes on a scale. But in the scale of life, they are a very big deal.