First Day of School Traditions from Around the World

Kids all over the world are heading back to school this time of year. For some, it’s their first time ever entering a classroom. But how do different countries and cultures mark this milestone? Here are just a few notable ways to commemorate the start of a new school year.

Japan: A brand new bag

On their first day of school, many Japanese children’s families gift them a new randoseru, a sort of stiff leather backpack. These materials help them hold up well enough to be carried every day for the first six years of school. Traditionally, girls receive red backpacks while boys receive black ones, but they do come in other fun colors, too! While many kids get new backpacks before a new school year starts in the USA, it’s not typically expected they’ll use the same one all throughout elementary school.

Ukraine: Flowers for teacher

You may have heard of students giving apples to their teachers in the USA. In Ukraine, you’ll see an even more colorful gift on teacher’s desks: fresh flowers! The first day of school, traditionally on September 1, is called “Knowledge Day” or “The Day of Knowledge” and celebrates the awesome power of learning. One lucky first grader even gets to ring a symbolic bell to represent the start of a lifelong journey of learning. You’ll see ceremonies, special decorations, and lots and lots of flowers for teachers, courtesy of the students! Several other nearby countries share similar traditions. For example, in Kazakhstan, each student brings one flower and the teacher combines them together into a bouquet!

India: Admission day gifts

The school year in India kicks off with “Admission Day” or Pravesanolsavam. It’s a celebration of learning often kicked off by the school district or local government. To add to the festive atmosphere, kids often receive gifts and treats at school, including sweets, school supplies and stationery, new schoolbags, and one that may surprise you: umbrellas! Schools in India typically start in late May or early June, which also coincides with monsoon season. A nice new umbrella is a great companion for the walk to school on a rainy day!

Italy: A special smock

Look, we all know kids can be messy. That’s why we’re fans of a historic tradition for primary school students in Italy: the work smock, or grembiule. Kids can wear these adorable smocks, often collared and embroidered, over their school clothes to keep them from getting dirty during the day. In addition to protecting their clothes, they are a simpler alternative to school uniforms (which Italy doesn’t typically require). And they definitely look cuter than the oversized, paint-splattered T-shirts that many American kids wear as art smocks!

Germany: A cone of treats

This is probably the most famous back-to-school tradition of all: the German Schultüte. Parents traditionally give kids these big, colorful paper cones on their first days of school. Cheerfully decorated, the cones contain school supplies, candy, toys, and other treats. As rites of passage go, it’s certainly one of the sweetest! These aren’t necessarily the homespun craft you might expect: Schultüten are an industry in Germany and are often mass produced!

How does your family commemorate the first day of school? Have you ever tried any of these traditions? We’d love to hear about it!