How to Make a Schultüte (Or...How to Make your Child's or Grandchild's First Day at School Fun!)
You gotta hand it to the Germans – they seem to make a grand celebration out of almost anything! They practically invented Christmas decorations and treats, they’ve figured out how to celebrate October in September and they have a wonderful tradition to send kids off to their first day of school.
We here at Gingerbread World are fascinated by how families pass along their heritage to their children and grandchildren. Many of our customers came to Canada from Germany and other European countries and appreciate their home country’s traditions and values through the foods they enjoy and the gifts they give. Lebkuchen Schmidt at Christmas time is a wonderful way at Christmas time that they share their memories and experiences.
The Schultüte is a big deal for children starting school. It’s a cherished tradition for families as parents give thought to the new adventure their children are embarking upon. And the Schultüte is a cultural icon – the pointy paper cone with the crepe paper top are instantly recognizable to anyone connected to German heritage.
Supposedly German kids have been receiving Schultüte since 1810 when it was first recorded in the city of Jena. The story goes that in the early days of the Schultüte the cone was not given directly to the child. Instead it was brought by the parent or grandparent or godparent to the school and hung on a metal "Schultüten-Baum" (school cone tree) from which each child had to pick his or her cone, without breaking it. The children were told that the Schultütenbaum grows at the school and when the fruits (the Schultüten) are ripe and big enough to pick, it's time to go to school for the first time.
The Schultüte is a gift that traditionally a new first grader would receive on his or her first day of school. But it can be given every year or at the beginning of a new chapter of school life – like moving from one school to another or moving from elementary school to middle school.
My kids attended a German bilingual school from kindergarten to grade five and some of the families were actually from Germany. It was always fun to see the “real Germans” come to their first day with their large Schultüte cones, grinning from ear to ear about all the candy they had received!
Schultüte are really quite easy to make. We came across the following video on YouTube and although the presenter does not pronounce the word “Schultüte” correctly she does show us how quickly a cone can be put together and decorated.
Take a look:
So now you have a decorated cone…what should you put inside?
Here are some ideas of items to include. Some of these items are available here at Gingerbread World. Mostly we suggest these items because we think they might spark some conversation with your children or grandchildren about your German heritage and memories of your own childhood.
Haribo Gummy Bears – Haribo makes children happy – it’s a fact! And they come in so many different flavors, colors and shapes. The Gummy Bear was invented in Germany by a gentleman named HAns RIegel in the city of BOnn – hence the name HaRiBo! It seems that Haribo is everywhere in Germany and every time we visit family over there our kids are given bags and bags of the squishy yummy things!
Gummy Bear Keychains – inspired by the Haribo edible ones, these super fun rubber keychains in the shape of a gummy bear can be used for keys or hung on a kid’s backpack (my kids always had 4 or 5 cool keychains hanging off their backpacks in elementary school!). When you squish the tummy of the bear it lights up! And it comes in a variety of colors.
German Chocolate – Chocolate is always good and German chocolate is the best! Ritter Sport bars are particularly fun because they are square and they come in a whole bunch of different flavors.
Small Gifts and Toys – Part of what makes the Schultüte so special for a child is the fun of pulling out one small item after another. And if some of those small items are wrapped separately as gifts..all the better! Some ideas for boys - toy cars, small stuffed animals, action figures. For girls - lip gloss, hair elastics or clips, stuffed animals or small dolls. How about a gift card – like an Apple or Google card so the kids can download apps and songs on their phones. Or big chunky colored chalk for drawing on the tarmac in the playground – when I volunteered at my kids’ school over lunch hour we would take out the colored chalk and get the kids to lie down on the pavement and I would trace their bodies and they would color in the eyes, mouth, clothes and accessories!
School Supplies – By the first day of school most of the core school supplies have already been purchased but the special ones that make life at school more bearable can still be given! Pencil erasers in the shape of something your child or grandchild loves are a good idea. My son loved car-shaped erasers and my girls had fun with erasers that looked like make-up or cellphones! Magnets for kids’ lockers. A USB Drive in the shape of a Star Wars or Disney character. Colorful pencils. Stickers. Colored sticky memo pads in different shapes. The shelves near the checkout at Staples or other office supply shops are full of these kinds of things!
Even if the little school kid in your life lives on the other side of the country you can still give a Schultüte – make and fill the cone and box it up to send via Canada Post to the child’s home. But given that it is still warm outside make sure there is someone at home to receive it so that the chocolate and candy don’t melt. Or check into Canada Post’s new FlexDelivery option.
We would love to hear about your memories of your childhood Schultüte or hear about your adventures in making one. And seeing your photos is always fun. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or post your photos to Instagram using the hashtag #gingerbreadworldgenerations and give us a heads up at @gingerbreadworld.