Back to School Traditions from Around the World

By now, the new school uniforms and shiny new stationery will have been bought just in time for your child’s first day of school. You’ll soon be taking the obligatory photos of your little one in their slightly-too-big school sweatshirt and shedding a small tear as you wave them off at the school gates for the first time. But have you ever thought about how this momentous day is marked throughout the world? Perhaps these traditions will inspire you to start your own!

german school cone


In some parts of Germany, a child’s first day of school is celebrated with a paper or fabric cone filled with sweets, school supplies and other goodies, called a Schultüte. These cones are given to children leaving preschool or nursery and beginning their ‘real’ school journey, marking this significant stage of a child’s life. In the run up to the new school year, German stores are filled with these cones – both filled and unfilled – or some parents choose to make their own DIY version.


The 1st of September is celebrated each year in Russia as the Day of Knowledge, marking the first day of school. Pupils, teachers and parents gather at the school, with the children smartly dressed and girls wearing traditional white ribbons in their hair. Teachers are given bouquets, and pupils line up to await the ‘first bell’, rung by a first-grade student sitting on a senior student’s shoulders as they are carried in front of the waiting crowd.


Shopping for the new academic year is big business in Brazil. The demand for school supplies is so high that shops will charge up to fives time more during the back-to-school period. Smart parents will stock up on pencils and notebooks in the months before to avoid the over-inflated prices.


In early September, schools hold an ‘opening ceremony’ where 20 million students across the country will mark the beginning of the new school year. Originating in 1945, when President Ho Chi Minh read a letter to declare Vietnam’s independence from French colonisation, this back-to-school festival starts the academic year off with a bang. Preschool to high school aged children, as well as teachers will attend colourful ceremonies featuring artistic performances, traditional games and the ceremonial beating of a large drum to officially begin the new school year.


In Indonesia, no actual lessons happen on the first day of school. Instead, an orientation day takes place, where new pupils are split into groups and encouraged to take part in activities designed to cultivate friendships and a community-minded environment. Each group also includes 2 or 3 seniors which have been chosen as exemplary students to motivate the new batch of pupils.