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Schultüte, a German tradition for the beginning of school


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.


23 thoughts on “Schultüte, a German tradition for the beginning of school

  1. How funny! I just got back from the doctor’s office where I read an article on this very cool tradition while I waited….kismet! Thanks Ulla for sharing this!

  2. FUN stuff! I went to German school and remember this tradition! I nearly always get my kids something fun before we start homeschooling each year and was pondering this very idea… I would have to do it each year because well… I’m that way, lol and love to play. I think we’ll have to make some up this week! Thanks for the reminder!

    I’m going to forward your blog to our homeschoolingwaldorf list.

  3. What a lovely tradition! I love learning about the ways all the cultures of the world celebrate different milestones in their childrens’ lives. Thank you Ulla!

  4. So neat! Thank you for sharing this. That is a great tradition.

  5. What a charming tradition! I love these little glimpses at German living from you, Ulla!

  6. My hubby said that his Oma made them for he and his brother when they went to grade school! He said they were great!

  7. this sounds really great! It seems so many traditions have fallen away in this new age of instant everything and supersizing. Thanks for the reminder that we need to celebrate each step of the way. I just dropped my oldest daughter at her first day of kindergarten this morning, wish I would have seen this earlier.

  8. Now how clever is that!! Now I want to go back to school:)

  9. I am glad you enjoy my ramblings. Please, if you have any other topics you want to hear about let me know. As we get closer to Christmas I will share more traditions and reminiscences about Germany!

  10. Hey Ulla! Great article sweetie. 🙂

  11. Your daughter looks so proud of her start to school life. A really interesting post, Ulla.
    Jane xx

  12. That sounds like such a fun and wonderful tradition. How fun indeed! Thank you so much for sharing this with us Ulla. ^_^


  13. So fun and filled with life 🙂 Thank you Ulla!

  14. i love this tradition, i never heard it before. I knew I wanted to be living in Germany when we have our first kid – and they’re old enough for school, but now I really want that. I love it!

  15. I love this tradition. I will be incorporating it into our school year. Thank you for sharing Ulla

  16. I love this tradition! We did this for both of my kids….even though we homeschool. I think it was good to do ESPECIALLY because we homeschool….when starting school can seem to have such very little ceremony ( meaning just walking over to the dining room table lol).

  17. My mom and I were just talking about this. We made one for my sister when she started school about 25 years ago. We were just talking about it and trying to remember what it was called because we want to do the same thing for my sister’s little girl. Since we missed the first day of kindergarten maybe we’ll save it for first grade as was the original tradition. I just want to let you know we were wondering about it, I google “German kindergarten tradition” and up popped this post.

    I love the internet! Questions get answered in nanoseconds! Thanks for writing this great post.

    I am an Etsian too, I didn’t realize there was a Natural Kids team. Keep up the good work!

  18. This is so awesome! My Grandmother and I were talking about Schultute the other day. She was born and raised in Berlin, as well as my Father, and like all german school children, recieved a Schultute her first day of school. My daughter isn’t even one yet but i cannot help myself to start researching where i could buy one or learn how to make one. I still have family in Berlin so theres a possibility i could have them ship me one over. I think its great to see people celebrating and still using the traditions that our wonderful ancestors once started. Thanks

  19. Great i have a german quistin every day for school. this was one of the quistions. thanks.

  20. The older I get, the more I think back to my happy days growing up in Germany. My Schultüte day was definitely a highlight in my life. Thanks for sharing this tradition on your blog. I'm sure lots of children will thank their now enlightened moms who in turn will thank you for sweetening the first day of school with a Schultüte.

  21. A member from our German Group just introduced these in the Midwest.

  22. Thanks for sharing this. I was looking for something special to do for my son's first day of U.S. Kindergarten. This is perfect. It has special meaning for me, too, since I spent 3 wonderful years in Nurnberg, Germany as a teen :).

  23. Hope your son enjoys his Schultuete! I'd love to see a picture. I am so glad my post inspired you to make this day special for him.

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