Art & Culture
First Day of School Traditions Around the World
By Carolina Grace Figueroa
Volume 2 Issue 1
October 8, 2021
Image provided by Little Passports
Schools around the globe have different start dates, calendars, and traditions. The first day of a new term at school is an exciting time filled with prospects of gaining more knowledge, making new friends, and building community. I enjoy learning about different cultures and found some fascinating traditions to mark the start of the school year in other countries. Children from other countries celebrate back to school in fun, different, and exciting ways. First-day back-to-school traditions from around the world include:
In Japan, parents traditionally send their kids a lunch of rice, seaweed sauce, and quail eggs on the first day of school. This symbolizes good luck for the new school year. Children also receive a stiff, hard-sided backpack (called randoseru) as a present on their first day of elementary school to carry all their school supplies. The randoseru helps form a kind of cultural unity and bond that brings the kids together.
In Indonesia, the focus of the first day of school is to help children get acquainted and make new friends rather than getting right into academic lessons. Schools use this first day to organize kids into social peer groups for fun activities and as an orientation for students to get to know each other. This creates a sense of community environment for them.
In India, the first day of school (called praveshanolsavam, or “Admissions Day”) also coincides with the beginning of the rainy, monsoon season. Parents often give their children unique gifts, including a brand-new umbrella, along with other fun goodies.
In Germany, on the first day of school, parents often give their children a schultuete (“school cone”), which is a giant paper, plastic, or cone-shaped cardboard package that is decorated and filled to the brim with school supplies, candies, treats and other small gifts. This marks new beginnings and is given to make the children’s new school year a little sweeter!
In Italy, children wear a “work smock” or “work coat” (called grembiule) over their clothes in primary school. In Kindergarten, girls wear pink and red checkers, while boys wear blue and white checkers. After first grade, the smocks are a deep blue color. The children must also wear a specific color of ribbon to indicate what grade they are in.
In Kazakhstan, each child brings a single flower to their new teacher on the first day of school. The teacher then gathers all the flowers together to make one large bouquet for the classroom. Parents also give their children a present containing sweets, a pencil, and a candle. Teachers and parents arrange a friend’s ceremony and food-feast so students can get together to make new friends.
In Holland, children are transported safely in an eco-friendly cargo bike (called bakfietsen) on the first day of school. This cargo bike consists of a large box, cart, or basket with wheels attached to the front of an adult bike. What a fun way to be transported to school!
In Vietnam, students are dressed and ready to perform for their family, friends, and local officials that have gathered to send them off on the first day of school. After the colorful ceremonies, this nationwide festival holds traditional games and artistic performances for the children to enjoy together.
In Russia, the first day of school is known as “Knowledge and Skills Day,” when a traditional ceremony of the “first bell” is held, where one of the younger girls is hoisted up onto the shoulders of an older boy who carries her around the line of students as she rings the first bell to mark the start of school. The children must wear formal attire to school. Children also often bring a fresh flower bouquet for their teacher and receive a balloon in return.
In America, children wear a brand new first day of school outfit and pose for a picture, sometimes holding a sign which has the school year or grade they are entering written on it. Taken every year on the first day of school, these photos mark how much the child has grown and progressed from year to year. Parents may also complete the first day of school interview page, like an “All About Me” questionnaire, with their child or leave lunchbox love notes as a surprise!
The start of the new school year around the world has, of course, been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic this year. Every school year, the beginning of a new grade gives children an opportunity for a fresh start and to set new goals for themselves, either socially, academically, athletically, or personally. Each first day of school is such a milestone in children’s lives and always a memorable moment. Good luck to every student worldwide on their first day back to school for this new school year! Hopefully, these first days back to school, cultural ceremonies, and traditions will see a more sense of normalcy next year.