From sugar cone to “Schultüte”
By Filiz Sahin
A few weeks ago it was time again and many children celebrated their first day at school. A school cone (“Schultüte”) or sugar cone (“Zuckertüte”) is held proudly by many children’s hands on that day. No matter whether they made it themselves or bought it ready-made, whether big or small, whether round or square – a photo with school bag, capturing an important start into a new phase of life, is something every one of us most porbably owns.
It’s hard to believe, but the history of the Schultüte goes back almost 200 years. An exact date cannot be determined, but already in 1817 it was mentioned in a report, that a student in Jena had received “a mighty bag of confectionery” for school enrolment. In the past, schoolchildren were also told that a “sugar cone tree” was growing in the school cellar. If the fruits had ripened (i.e. the sugar cones were big enough), then it would also be time to go to school. The child therefor knew, with the picked sugar cone in his arm that it was “ripe” and ready for school – and even today in German one still speaks of “Schulreife” (school ripeness).
History shows that already when the school cone was introduced, the transition to school life was literally to be sweetened for the schoolchild by filling it with fruit, nuts and biscuits. This is also the origin of the name “sugar cone”, which is actually the original name.
When children enter school, they have to follow many new rules and get used to a new environment. This can cause discomfort or a queasy feeling. At the same time, however, the first-graders-to-be are also proud to become a bit taller, more grown up and independent. The school bag clearly and visibly signals: “I am a schoolchild now”. This makes it easier to say goodbye to the kindergarten and establishes the new community with the other first graders. The school bag was and is a comfort and motivation at the same time.
Here in Germany it is hard to imagine life without the school bag and its symbolic power. Sometimes it is made by the prospective schoolchild during the last phase of the kindergarten or in the preschool itself. Then it is important that they are allowed to carry their own school bag to school on their big day. But often this task is left to the parents. Then the parents have the possibility to either buy a finished bag or to grab their own scissors. You don’t have to have a guilty conscience: Even ready-made cones will keep their symbolism, when they match the interests and preferences of the schoolchild in terms of motif or colour.
Those who prefer to do handicrafts can do this together with the future schoolchild or alone as a surprise. Each family can decide for itself and it also depends on the wishes and abilities of the schoolchild. For those who are not quite so talented in handicrafts, but also do not want to buy a finished school bag, there is another variant: finished handicraft sets for school bags, in which the jewellery parts are already prefabricated. By different arrangement of the parts school cones are created in an individual execution. At www.schulstart.de there are different motives to the selection.
For many years there has been another tradition: the “sibling bag”. Here, younger or sometimes even older siblings of the first-graders-to-be likewise get a filled miniature school cone. Thus, envy among the brothers and sisters can be avoided. Whether this makes sense or whether each child should be able to celebrate on its own, each family can and should decide for itself. But one thing is for sure: The next “first day of school” is sure to come!