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Schultüte: The tradition of the German school cone

Schultüte: The tradition of the German school cone

The first day at school is daunting for kids all over the world, but in Germany parents find a way to make the big day a little sweeter - using sweets and a cone! The German school cone (Schultüte) comes packed full of sweets and chocolates to boost the morale of kids anxiously heading to school for the first time. Here’s the history of this lovely German tradition.

The Schultüte: The German first day of school cone

The Schultüte - literally the school cone - is a large cone-shaped paper or plastic container filled with sweets, toys and treats for new school students. The cone is filled by the parents or grandparents of new school-aged children and is presented to them on their first day of school to help ease the transition. 

What is a Schultüte (Zuckertüte)?

The Schultüte, or Zuckertüte (sugar cone) is usually made out of paper, cardboard or plastic and can contain everything from sweets and chocolates to toys and stationery for the first day. Germany is not the only country that has this interesting tradition, with regions in other northern and eastern European countries such as Poland, Austria, Belgium and Switzerland also having similar first-day-of-school practices. 

kids holding school cones

How did it become a German school tradition? 

The tradition has its origins around the year 1810, in the federal states of Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia. The first documented Schultüte appeared in the cities of Jena, Dresden and Leipzig in the early part of the 19th century, given to wealthy children attending private schools as a gift for their first day. As schooling became commonplace for all children, the tradition quickly spread around other towns and villages in the region before becoming an institution across all German states

There are several different versions of the tradition's origins, but most agree that the cones were originally hung from a so-called Schultütenbaum (school cone tree) in the school yard. The story told to the children was that when the cones were considered "ripe and large enough" to pick, the children were ready to begin first grade. On the first day of school, children were told to pick the cone with their name on it from the tree, being careful not to break it, and would find a surprise inside. 

Why do German kids get a Schultüte cone?

The logic behind the tradition is simple: German kids get a Schultüte cone as a small treat to help them overcome the stresses of the anxiously awaited first day at school. Even during the two devastating World Wars, German parents managed to keep the tradition going, making Schultüte from whatever they could, to give children a little treat on their first day. 

In good times, German kids have received sweets, toys, treats and little luxuries, while in bad times, parents have tried to put together what they could - potatoes, or simply the cone itself as a gift. The small celebration simply marks the beginning of a young student’s journey into education and a new challenge to undertake.

Over time, the contents of the Schultüte have changed slightly, with some parents phasing out the traditional sweets and chocolates in favour of more practical items like pieces of stationery, small toys, books and even pieces of clothing. 

How to make a Schultüte

You can make or buy a Schultüte. Shops start to stock Schultüte as the school holidays come to an end, in a variety of colours and styles from simple to super-fancy. The company Nestler Feinkartonagen produces more than 2 millon school cones each year! Cones can either be round (which was traditional in West Germany during the division of Germany) or hexagonal (which were preferred in East Germany). 

Many parents also make them from scratch, or sometimes the children make their own school cones in kindergarten. If you're feeling creative, here is a great video on how you can make your very own fabulous Schultüte!

Video: YouTube / FISCHAPARK

Other German school traditions

Kids in Germany start school at the age of six. Though this may be later than in some other countries, the day comes with as much ceremony as is seen elsewhere in the world. The first day of school in Germany starts with the Einschulung - a special event to commemorate the start of a child’s school life and welcome the new kids to work. 

The Einschulung event usually takes place on the Saturday before children start at their new school and requires the children’s extended family to dress up and attend. Here, they will meet their future teachers and classmates before the school year starts. 

On the night before the child's first day of school, their grandparents will often take them out for a special dinner. 

Get your own German first day of school cone!

After learning all about the German Schultüte, we’re sure you’re very keen to head out and get your own. Whether you're making one or buying a Schultüte, we wish your child a great first day at school!

Emily

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Emily Proctor

Former Editor at IamExpat Media.

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