The first day of school is this Monday, August 31st for students of The New Century School and other Baltimore City schools. School accounts for a very large share of a child’s daily life—it’s a really big deal. And that is just as it should be. To celebrate this very special time in your child’s life and to give that first day back its due, Immersed is sharing some very lovely and unique back-to-school traditions from around the world (proceeding in alphabetical order, of course).
Austrians and Germans make quite a fanfare over students entering Grade 1. Parents and grandparents fill decorated paper cones called schultütes with school supplies, trinkets, and candy and present these “sugar cones” to their first-graders on their very first day of school.
Indian students celebrate “Admission Day,” by exchanging gifts, such as balloons, candy, and books. But because this day falls within the Indian monsoon season, umbrellas are by far the most popular gift to give and receive!
Israeli kindergarteners are reminded that learning the Torah is as sweet as honey when they begin to learn the letters of the aleph-bet. These letters are drawn on a chalkboard with honey, and student gets to lick away each one they correctly identify. Older students create their own style of fun by releasing balloons out of schoolhouse windows on the first day of school. They also congregate to greet 1st-graders in a special ceremony outside the school.
Coinciding with the blossoming of the cherry trees, school in Japan starts in April. For the Japanese, Spring symbolizes new beginnings, and what more appropriate new beginning to get off on the right foot than the academic year? During nyugakushiki, a ceremonial greeting to new students and their parents, the children wear new uniforms and their parents dress in their best, often including mothers in traditional kimonos. For students entering their first year of schooling, the big memento is a backpack, or randoseru, traditionally in black for boys and red for girls. These backpacks might be passed down through generations or purchased new, but either way, the Japanese believe this tradition will get their children off to a successful start.
New Zealand: Powhiri
New Zealanders start school in February with a welcoming ceremony called a powhiri or “encounter,” which reflects the indigenous Maori culture. Including speeches, songs, and stomping and hand-clapping (called haka), this ceremony welcomes students, staff, and families alike to the new school year!
Russia: День Знаний
In Russia, the school year typically begins September 1st. On this “Day of Knowledge,” students wearing white ribbons either on their school uniforms or in their hair present fresh flowers to their teachers to honor these vital personages. The school year officially starts with the ringing of a bell—but no ordinary bell-ringing! A 1st-grade girl carried on the shoulders of a 12th-grade boy through a crowd of spectators rings a special bell as loudly as she can in this charming and symbolic ceremony.
Other countries have their special traditions, too, from adorning student smocks in Italy with ribbons that correspond to their grade level to bouquets of flowers in Kazakhstan classrooms to represent the growth and progress students will make during the school year. Whatever your back-to-school tradition may be, whether commemorated with colorful balloons, sweet treats, flowers, or new school supplies, make this year count. Welcome to the 2015–2016 school year, TNCS community!