Friday, September 10, 2010

Schooling In

What, you ask, is that? An overgrown carrot decorated by someone with too much time on their hands? A giant candy corn for those who can't wait to celebrate Halloween? A prize for the fastest horse, or simply a wish for good luck?

That, dear readers is a Schultüte. It is THE symbol of the start of school for the youngest students here in Germany. The excitement surrounding the Schultüte is comparable to that of finding a stocking filled with goodies on Christmas morning. Children make requests for certain themes (they come in all sizes, colors, and themes, but not different shapes—they are always, always a cone), and at the beginning of their first year of school, the students are given their Schultüte as a symbol of their transition into the world of learning.

Once upon a time (or so I have been told), they held school supplies. My elderly neighbor told me how she and her friends found farm produce in theirs (they were farmers' kids—they clearly didn't get enough fresh fruit and vegetables at home, it had to come wrapped in a pretty little cone, too). And more recently, toys and candy. Sometimes enough to require visits to the dentist.

The contents are up to the parents, but the Einschulungsfeier (schooling in ceremony) is a wonderful celebration that marks a major turning point in a child's life. They are no longer learning only from friends and family at home, but they are now embarking on a journey of discovery that will lead them places they never dreamed existed.

I don't even remember my first day of school. It blends in with all of the others. But to honor the occasion with festivities, friends, and family... that's the way to do it, isn't it? To make the transition exciting, appealing, and oh so very fun. To send children into the world to learn with enthusiasm. That's the way to create joyful learners. Perhaps this is a tradition we should celebrate more widely.

If you're looking for Poetry Friday, Anastasia Suen has the roundup this week.

Do you remember starting school? What traditions can you recall?


  1. This is fascinating! I've never heard or seen anything like it but what a cool little tradition to signify the beginning of a new school year.

    My mom did the whole school shopping tradition, grab book bags, lunch bags and clothes, none could be touched or worn until the day of, which just made you feel super confident. Other than that it was just a regular old school year. I do think a nice tradition would be nice though... hmmm, I need to think on that for when I have kids!!

    BTW - referring to the comment you left on my blog, there are so many days I fall short on comments, I always want to get to everyone, but I know it'll never happen, I get too busy, but people are understanding :)

  2. Jen: it's not every year--only the very first one. It is, quite literally, a kicking-off ceremony to carry them through until graduation.

  3. I like the idea of celebrating the FRONT END of the education process, and not just the end end of it (graduation).

  4. What a fun tradition! It SHOULD be a time to celebrate. I loved rituals and traditions as a child. Celebrating holidays and special events was so much more exciting then. I love the idea of playing up every moment to make it a memory.

  5. Mary Lee and Kristin: I agree. It's a huge event in a child's life, and I think it's wonderful that Germans kick it off in such a big way.