I was sitting there the other day with my husband discussing topics of interest for our blog. I thought of a few but then decided on the Schultüte because school just started and some of you may have heard of this German tradition and be curious about it. Even if you are a homeschooling parent you may find this little tidbit about German culture interesting.
What is a “Schultüte”? Maybe you have seen one in a Magic Cabin or other up-scale toy catalogue. You may have wondered what that strange looking cone shaped thing was. Here is my explanation:
The tradition of the Schultüte (translated school bag) goes back to the early 19th Century. It started in the big cities of Jena, Dresden, and Leipzig in the states of Saxony and Thüringen. There, children were told of these wonderful bags growing on trees in teachers’ houses. When the bags had grown to full size it meant that the children were ready to go to school to receive them.
This tradition eventually spread from the cities to the country side and all over Germany. Nowadays every German child receives a Schultüte when he or she starts school. By starting school, I mean on their very first day of school in First Grade. The German school system is very different from the U.S. system. When Germans talk about Kindergarten we think of preschool or rather a playschool type of situation. Between the ages of 3-6, most children attend Kindergarten. In my case that meant I went to a Catholic Kindergarten. It was pretty much free of charge, funded by the state and church! I went there at 8 am and stayed there for a couple of hours every day. I never thought of it as school or daycare, though. Kindergarten was a place to socialize with other kids besides your siblings, learn how to write your name, and do crafts. I loved it for the most part.
Kindergarten is then followed by Grundschule, our elementary school. And to mark this very important rite of passage from Kindergarten to school, children receive the Schultüte. It is a colorful, decorated, cone shaped vessel, usually made of thick cardboard with an opening at the top. The bag is filled with school supplies, toys, and of course candy. But there is not limit to the imagination. The children receive it in the morning and carry it proudly to their school. A picture is taken in front of school. They meet the teacher and their new classmates. When the first day is over and the children get home they are allowed to open the Schultüte and see what treasures it holds.
I love this tradition and tried to recreate it for my children as best as I could. Since I could not find a Schultüte to buy in the U.S., except for the expensive Magic Cabin version, I made one myself. I found there are quite a few German websites that teach you how to make one.
My daughter absolutely loved it. I think this is such a fun way to get children excited about school and learning. Learning is like that mystery bag – you don’t know what’s in it until you open it!
If you have a child starting school you may want to think about giving them such a wonderful bag and tell them about this German tradition…
Happy Back to School Days!
Ulla Seckler is a dollmaker who was born and raised in Germany. She lives in beautiful Colorado with her husband and two kids. You can find her Notes by a German Dollmaker on her blog where she shares some great German recipes, pictures of her sweet dolls, and life lessons learned. Don’t forget to stop by her Etsyshop and take a peek at her wonderful doll creations.