Making a Schultuete: A German First Grade Tradition
Today’s post is by our regular DIY Del Ray contributor, Kay Sidhamed, owner of Oikasa, interior design business.
This year’s back-to-school preparation is accompanied by a special buzz of excitement in our family. Our oldest child Gaia will be entering first grade. Not a big deal, you might think, but in my native country Germany, it is a BIG deal.
First grade is when German children start school and proudly call themselves a Schulkind (school child). Anything before that is called kindergarten, but has hardly anything in common with the U.S. kindergarten.
Until first grade, German children spend their days playing, crafting, singing, and more playing. Formal academic instruction in reading, writing, and math marks the beginning of a new chapter in their lives — going to “real” school. Our child is equally excited as her peers in Germany upon becoming a Schulkind very soon. She spent the past three years at the Waldorf School in Arlington where formal instruction in academics has not been part of her kindergarten days and she carries her soon-to-be status as a first grader with reverent pride.
It has been a long-standing German tradition to mark this important rite of passage from kindergarten to school by giving the children a Schultuete on their very first day of school. Here is a picture of me 35 years ago holding my Schultuete on my own first day of school.
The Schultuete is usually filled with school supplies, toys and candy, and the children receive it the morning of their first school day.
During our summer in Germany, Gaia had plenty of opportunity to admire her cousin’s Schultuete and it has never been out of the question for me that my own children will receive one on their special day as well. We did some supply shopping in Germany and finally this week I got to work on it. I started by cutting a triangular piece of cardboard and rolling it into a cone.
Next, I covered the whole thing with a piece of fabric, which Gaia had picked out.
Then, I added finishing touches like ribbons, letters and buttons. The hot glue gun has been my trusted friend throughout this process.
The night before school starts, we will fill her Schultuete with some little surprises including notes, pictures and blessings from friends.
Gaia loves the finished product and is eagerly anticipating Tuesday morning, when she will walk with her parents and her little brother to Del Ray Montessori School and towards a new chapter in her life, proudly carrying her very own Schultuete.