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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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