Three lovely back-to-school traditions from around the world

It’s that time of year again.

The frenzy of shoe shopping, ironing uniforms and doing the last-minute stationery dash can only mean one thing: it’s time to go back to school. Whether you’re counting down the days until normality returns, or dreading stepping back into the classroom, these lovely back-to-school traditions from around the world could inspire you to make the transition a bit more magical.


Starting elementary (primary) school in Germany is a big deal, for children and families alike. To mark this rite of passage, German children who are entering first grade receive special cones, known as Schultüten, from their parents or carers. Literally translated as ‘school bags’, the Schultüten are cones filled with gifts and treats, such as books, stationery, sweets and toys, to celebrate the child starting school.

There are references to the tradition dating back as far as the late 18th Century, but the cones have become much more elaborate over time. As well as the gifts now including an array of treats rather than just sweets, there are also a range of shop-bought cone options available to buy and fill alongside the more traditional DIY approach.

Other countries such as Austria also practise this tradition. Anyone else feeling like they missed out?


1 September is celebrated each year as the Day of Knowledge in Russia, marking the beginning of the school year. The day is of such importance that, even if it falls on a Saturday, families will still attend the celebrations at the school.

The Day of Knowledge was established in the Soviet Union in 1984 and involves students, families and teachers gathering at their schools for celebratory traditions including inspirational speeches and special performances of poetry and songs. Students dress smartly for the occasion, with schoolgirls of all ages traditionally wearing white ribbons in their hair or fastened to their clothes.

Teachers are given flowers and pupils line up ceremoniously to await the ‘first bell’ to mark the beginning of the new academic year. Traditionally, a first grade student will sit on a senior year student’s shoulders and be carried in front of the crowd ringing the bell loudly to officially welcome in the new school year.


In Japan, starting school goes hand-in-hand with receiving a significant gift – a special hard-sided backpack known as a ‘randoseru’. These are no ordinary backpacks; they are designed to last for all six years of elementary (primary) school. As you can imagine, as they are an investment, they can come with a hefty price tag. Many parents spend the equivalent of several hundred pounds per bag.

Originally, randoseru backpacks only came in two colours: red (traditionally for girls) and black (traditionally for boys). They have since diversified, with a wide range of colours and designs available. It is said that the randoseru helps to develop a child’s ability to look after their possessions and make them last. We could probably all learn a lesson from that!

It’s not only these countries that embrace the back-to-school spirit.

In Italy, children mark the new term by getting a new ‘grembiule’ or ‘work smock’ that is worn over their clothes during primary school. These smocks come in a range of styles and can even be personalised for each child.

In America, the return to school often sees parents taking pictures of their children holding small signs signifying which grade they are about to enter. For new kindergarten students, it’s also their first chance to travel in the traditional yellow school buses that will take them to school right through to their senior year of high school.

Of course, many families also add their own traditions into the mix. What will you be doing to mark the start of term?

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