Back-to-School Traditions from Around the World

Department stores gear up for back to school in the United States.
Photo credit: Flickr CC user Mike Mozart
Department stores gear up for the back-to-school season in the United States.
Photo credit: Flickr CC user Mike Mozart

Growing up, I was one of those weird kids who couldn’t wait to go back to school. Forget Christmas – every Fall, my mom would take us kids to Macy’s and Target where we got to pick out any and every school supply we might need for the rest of the year. (It was the ultimate score if the Lisa Frank binders were on sale, and my sister and I would have to figure out which unicorn print to pick out).

Here in the United States, the school year is back in full swing, but in other parts of the world, some kids are just starting their summer vacation (lucky ducks!). To get ready for the year ahead, many American students go back-to-school shopping to get new school supplies and clothes in order to mark a fresh start. In high school, many campuses have special assemblies or spirit days to get kids excited for the months ahead. So what about kids in other countries? How do they gear up for another year of learning? I decided to do a little research into the kinds of traditions that go on around the world…


Everything just sounds grander in Russia – even the first day of school. Known as the “Day of Knowledge,” September 1 marks the start of a new school year. Students must dress up and give flowers to their new teachers as well as attend a “first bell” ceremony.


Kids in Japan start off the year right – with a randoseru or backpack. Boys are given black sacks, and girls get red ones to signify the start of a new year of learning. It is totally acceptable to hand the randoseru down to your siblings once you’re out of elementary school or even to cut it up and turn it into a pencil case or some other school supply when you enter middle school.

Germany and Austria

Halfway across the world in Germany and Austria, students bring a Schultuten, or “school cone,” to their first day of class. Think of these cones as Christmas presents in school supply form. Each of these cones is filled with classroom tools like pens, pencils, and erasers, as well as fun stuff like candy and toys.


Our friends in France start thinking about the first day of school the minute the last school year ends. Students meet their new teacher and are given a list of recommended supplies for the next year so families have time to prepare during the summer months (or, if you’re like me, scramble the night before school starts).


In India, the first day of school falls during the monsoon season – scary! In addition to getting the normal classroom supplies, Indian children also make sure to get an umbrella, so they don’t get caught in a downpour walking to and from school.

How do you get ready for the first day of school? Any special traditions in your family? I would love to hear about them in the comment box below.