September 1st is the traditional start of the school year for all students in Ukraine. Since it falls on a Saturday, celebrations in honor of this occasion are sprinkled throughout the weekend until Monday. Ivan Franko National University will have its main opening convocation on Monday. But, today several elementary and secondary schools held festive events.
We happened upon one during our morning walk to the park. From a distance, we heard prayers as though an outdoor mass were being held. Perhaps another Spas? As the volume grew louder and we came closer, we saw a large gathering of parents and children outside a school. The children were adorable - dressed in burgundy uniforms (dresses for girls, blazers for boys) with traditional Ukrainian costumes underneath. In front of the school, a priest was indeed invoking prayers to bless the opening of the academic year. The children formed a ring around him, holding flowers. Behind them were parents and onlookers, taking photos and videos of the occasion. Next to the priest was a small table with a Ukrainian flag and two bells, one draped in blue and the other in yellow (the colors of Ukraine). As we continued to walk to the park, we passed by many people in formal attire, and young women who appeared to be teachers wearing traditional shirts and modern skirts and carrying signs, apparently heading toward similar celebrations. We reflected a bit on how serious and attentive everyone seemed to be, in contrast to the university convocation at Kansas which is poorly attended (and not on the first day of classes). It is nice to see the opening of the school year treated as an important occasion, worthy of proper attire and a grand introduction.