School is over!
Classes are over and the school year has come to an end. At this time of the year, all over The Netherlands you see this:
In the month of June, students all over the country start receiving the results of their final exams and soon, the streets become lined up with Dutch flags and school bags hanging from masts.
This means that a son or daughter of the house has passed his or her exams successfully and then, the family wants the neighbourhood to know about the good news. If you live in The Netherlands, I am sure you have seen this in your street or your neighbourhood around this time of the year.
But where does this tradition come from?
Before the custom of sending cards became widespread, people used to communicate news to their neighbours, family and relations by some kind of sign in the front of their houses. This was normally done to let people know that there was a newly-born baby, a birthday, a marriage or a death in the house.
Before the 1930s middle and higher education was only accessible for the elite, for those families that could afford to send their children off to school. It was around this decade of the 20th century when the tradition of hanging the flag outside the house started. If you were lucky enough or had money enough to send your children to school, and these succeeded in their studies, you certainly wanted the whole neighbourhood to know about it.
In the 60s secondary and higher education became also available to the working classes and therefore, more people started hanging the Dutch flag when their children successfully completed their studies. Because not everyone had a flag, it also became common to hang books or school bags too and later, these two habits merged into what we see today: flags sometimes with the inscription Geslaagd (successfully passed) written on them, school bags or books and other school items or even balloons hanging outside the house of a student who has passed his or her final exams.
Do you know of similar traditions for the end of the school year in other countries?
In Argentina, usually when you take (and pass) the last exam of your diploma at university, friends and family will be waiting for you outside the school. As you come out, you get a shower of eggs, flour, vinegar or anything that they happen to find in their kitchen cupboards before leaving the house. It is also customary to cut pieces of your clothes and even your hair!!!!!