A little over a week ago, I was in Germany to celebrate with my youngest direct cousin who started primary school. It is an event that has a long tradition of being celebrated, but usually in a very small setting (celebrated at school and then with parents and siblings). Over recent years, starting school has morphed into a reason to throw a party. Guest seem to be grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, godparents, family friends, neighbours, and even distant relatives. A real party you see, or maybe I should say “after party” as it takes place after the first class.

I started school 20 years ago (sometime end of September 1995). I don’t remember everything. But with my cousin starting school, a few more memories have come back, and I have had a peek in a photo album which has helped to add some detail to my recollection.
I was seven years old, had recently moved and did not always understand the local dialect, because even within the same country you can be lost in translation. It was a Saturday, my parents equipped me with my Schultüte, I was no longer a baby, I was part a big girl now, ready to conquer the world of letters and numbers. According to the photos I looked at, there was a service in church for all of the first graders (this was the case for my cousin as well, it was a protestant-catholic service). Then we went to the school, and were called one by one to sit with our class, I was with the bears. Meaning that our class’ mascot was a bear, 1b is not so easy to recognise for fresh first graders… The list was read in alphabetical order, thus I was the last one called up, which led to a lot of embarrassment, especially since the principal messed up my name. Then the second graders preformed a little something to make us feel welcome, and off we were for our first hour of class.
I was the only person who knew no one at all. Everyone knew at least one other person. But it didn’t matter, the nice girl next to me lend me a few pencils, as mine were inside their pencil case which was inside of my Schultüte. At least that way I could not keep myself to myself.

When I looked at the pictures my grandmother took of this first day at school, I can identify most of my classmates. And I am reminded that I am very late for birthday wished and that a recurring dream has told me to contact one of the girls who was in my class for 5 years.

Solveig's Schultüte
On the steps of my primary school 20 years ago proudly holding on to my Schultüte (the hat was a present from the police so that motorists would be careful around us first graders). For anyone wondering I am wearing a Dirndl. / photo probably taken by my grandmother

What is a Schultüte?

A Schultüte is a cone with which first graders are presented in Germany on their first day of school. In many old German children’s books, drawings of Schultüten can be seen. And according to the German wikipedia Schultüten go as far back as 1810. Filled with sweets they are there to sweeten the beginning of school. Nowadays it seems that many children receive less sweets but more presents that will make their free time outside of school more enjoyable.

What about you? Do you remember starting school? Did you have a Schultüte?
Does your culture or your family celebrate starting first grade? How do you celebrate?


© Solveig Werner 2015. All rights reserved.

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13 thoughts on “Starting school

  1. I was very excited but terribly lost on that first day of school… Look forward to seeing some of my schoolmates in a couple of days time. Off to Azerbaijan tomorrow 🙂 Your post brought all the memories back. I might even visit my school or see a teacher or two of mine…

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    1. I have not seen any of my primary school teachers since I left primary school… And my first teacher was so sweet.
      I do hope that the memories where positive.
      Do enjoy Azerbaijan! I guess you’ll be sharing some “postcard” posts in the future once you’ll be back 🙂

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  2. When my kids start school every year it’s a big deal, but no party. They do get gifts, mostly toys and books. Plus every year they get all the normal starting school stuff, clothing, lunch boxes, backpacks, pencil boxes, etc. However, I didn’t treat first grade differently from preschool or Kindergarten. Every first day of school is special. : ) Also my kids get a gift on the last day of school and that’s when we have our parties. It’s a little reward for working so hard all year. I do love your Schultüte, it sort of reminds me of a piñata.

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    1. Every year? In Germany kids tend to get their school equipment for birthdays and christmases. They have a special backpack that’s “good” for your back that’s only used in primary school, and that most kids reject once they enter 5th grade (I wanted an eastpack in 4th grade and was overjoyed when I got it for christmas and could leave my “baby” backpack…)
      Celebrating the end of things is always good, after all there is the accomplishment to celebrate 🙂
      I will have to find a book with Schultüten inside, I think in the past kids were told that they grow on trees. I only know piñatas from the movies. Maybe I should see to changing that.

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  3. You look cute! Here the local papers are filled with pictures of Primary 1 classes when school goes in (over a month ago – it starts in August here). I can’t specifically remember my first day at school but I remember quite a lot about my first school which I only attended for one term aged 4 and 3/4. However, it was over 30 years before your first day!

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    1. Thank you 🙂 I was astounded by my big feet when I dug out this picture.
      In Germany school starts at various moments, as each state has a different holiday calendar, some start in August while for others it’s when they head into their summer holidays.
      My mom started school at Easter, but she was of one of the last years to do so.

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  4. What an interesting German tradition. Now that I am a German citizen, I need to know more of these things!

    By the way, you’ve been chosen as one of today’s nine blogs in That’s So Jacob’s Ninth Month Blog Challenge (http://www.thatssojacob.wordpress.com)! I challenge you to find nine blogs you find interesting and give them a comment to brighten their day…well, eight other blogs and mine 🙂 Copy this message in your comment and enjoy your new blog friends!

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