Why do Danish 9th graders throw caramels at each other on their last day of school

Written by Jakob A. Overgaard

May.17 - 2024 11:07 PM CET

Photo: Shutterstock.com
Photo: Shutterstock.com

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In many Danish schools, it's a peculiar tradition for 9th graders to throw caramels at each other on their last day of school.

This day, filled with excitement and chaos, sees students dressed up in various costumes and participating in water fights and caramel throwing.

The classrooms transform into lively battlegrounds where students scramble to collect as many caramels as possible, resulting in a day marked by disorder and fun.

But what is the reason behind this unusual custom?

According to Danish Professor Margit Warburg from the University of Copenhagen, this tradition is actually a ritual marking a significant transition in the students' lives.

The 9th graders, who are about to face their final exams, engage in behaviors that deviate from the norm, which is characteristic of individuals in a transitional phase.

"The students' carefree and norm-breaking behavior is typical for those in a ritual transition phase. The last day of school for the students resembles the major transition rituals in other cultures that mark the passage from childhood to adulthood," explains Professor Warburg.

As reported by Videnskab.dk.

This caramel-throwing event is just the beginning of a longer transition period that consists of three parts. After the initial festivities, students focus on preparing for their exams. This first phase of the ritual involves preparing for the transition phase, which, in the context of Danish schools, starts with the final exam day and ends with the formal graduation ceremony.

Once the exams are completed, the celebrations resume.

High school graduates often celebrate by riding around town in open-top vehicles and drinking, while for 9th graders, it might involve holding a class party. These rituals are constantly evolving, with new traditions emerging each year and others disappearing. However, the core tradition of throwing caramels has persisted over time.

Professor Warburg notes that participants in these rituals both create and renew the rituals themselves. "The participants in rituals create and renew the rituals themselves, and this is also the case with the students in my research; almost every year, new customs emerge in connection with graduation parties, and others disappear," she says.

Similarly, there are rituals that arise and fade when the oldest students leave primary school, but it's likely that next year, younger students will once again be ducking to avoid flying caramels.

The caramel-throwing tradition is not just a day of fun and chaos. It symbolizes the end of one phase of life and the beginning of another, marking the significant milestone of moving from primary school to higher education or other life pursuits.

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