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“First Bell”

The first day of the academic year is traditionally on the 1st of September in the Russian Federation. This is the day when all students at all levels of education, from preschool age to university, go back to school; and it is constant. In fact, this day is actually celebrated as the “Day of Knowledge”. Seeing as the 1st of September fell on a Sunday this year, the first day of school was today, the 2nd. 

So the whole family went off to school. Guys, the first day of school is so interesting, not like we have it at home. Kids and teachers dressed in their best – boys in nice suits and ties; girls in white blouses and pinafores/skirts and hair bows – the bigger the better. Everyone has bouquets to present to their teachers, and there is the ceremony of the “First Bell”.

This was my first experience of this ceremony – and I have to tell you, I felt so grown up. There I was bringing 2 of my kids to school. It doesn’t feel like very long ago when I myself was a student. Parents, pupils and staff were all gathered on the school field, with kids and teachers lined up by class. Now that I think about it, it looked a little like the assemblies we had back then in primary school, except that there were no parents present then. After speeches had been made by the Director of the school and his assistants, clocks were presented to the supervising teacher of each class symbolising that it’s time to learn. And then, for the whole school….tick tock, tick tock, tick tock….and a loud bell rings (like the kind of bell that goes off in fire stations when there’s a fire). This is the signal for the children and teachers to go into their classrooms. And so begins the academic year. 

On their own, these things are not such a big deal. But put together, they create such a beautiful ceremony. For me, the importance of the ceremony is in its cultural and sentimental value. I have read articles by Russian adults telling of the nostalgia they felt when on taking their kids to school for First Bell, they were taken back to their own childhoods. I believe this is a wholesome tradition that has been passed on from generation to generation. 

Another important aspect to it is that parents and even grandparents are involved in this activity. People are given a few hours off work by their employers to attend the ceremony, with no consequences. It is that important to the Russian people. I for one am all up for any activity that brings the family together. Today, all four of our kids (including the 2-year-old and the 10-month-old) along with daddy and mummy went to school. And we were not alone. So many other families with grandparents, parents, babies and toddlers, all in their nice clothes, were present. That is what I call a celebration. 

Congratulations to everyone on the beginning of a new academic year, and we wish everyone success in their academic pursuits.