It’s freezing cold here at the moment. The thermometer in my kitchen recorded an outside temperature of -13 degrees this morning! However it’s been a gorgeous day of clear blue skies and bright sunshine, crisp and dry – if cold! One of the ‘down’ sides of such weather is that it takes ages to get ready to go out and then ages to take all your outdoor clothing off once you get back home, so, having just returned home, I am sitting exhausted from the effort, although I have not quite mustered the energy to take off my boots yet!
I’ve just returned from attending a Graduation ceremony. Linda, a young lady who works at the Regional Headquarters here has recently finished her degree and invited some of us to go along and witness the ceremony, so four of us went to support her. What struck me about the event were the similarities with a graduation ceremony I attended in the UK a couple of years ago. The venues were similar in size and layout, there were rows of graduates in their gowns and canary yellow hoods, not to mention their mortar boards. There was also a musical interlude and, of course, the usual speeches and the presentation of degrees and diplomas by the academic staff, the throwing of mortar boards into the air, and even a rendition of the ancient University student anthem ‘Gaudeamus igitur’ at the end.
There were two significant differences though. I did miss the line up of academic staff decked out in their academic gowns all glittering and glowing and giving a sense of pomp to the proceedings. By contrast, the sight of the six members of the academic staff sitting on the stage at today’s event in ordinary clothes, not an academic gown to be seen, did seem rather prosaic I have to say.
The other difference was the flowers, and flowers and more flowers! One of the absolutely indispensable accoutrements of any celebratory event here in Latvia is the giving of flowers. I have been told that Riga is possibly the only place in the world where you can buy flowers at any time of the day or night, because there are flower sellers that stay open 24/7. It would have been more than my life was worth to go today without some flowers. It may even be only one bloom, but you must give flowers. This flower-giving has it’s own etiquette too. I already knew before today that you must always give an odd number of blooms, because bouquets with an even number of flowers are only reserved for funerals. Today, I learnt another point of etiquette – you do not give the flowers wrapped in paper, they have to be given ‘au naturelle’, so my little offering of gerberas and freesias had to be unwrapped before I handed them over to Linda after the ceremony.
The flower-giving actually became part of the ceremony, for at the end of the presentations each cohort of students came to the stage. One of their number gave a little speech and each of the staff members were given their quota of flowers – lilies, single white roses, bunches of small red roses, chrysanthemums and orchids, to name but a few. This transformed the aforementioned prosaic platform party. Whilst not adorned by the paraphernalia of academia they were suddenly adorned by the dazzling simplicity of armfuls of flowers!