The first day of school in Germany is marked by a celebration not so very different from Christmas morning. And honestly, they may be onto something.
While in retrospect, we can all appreciate the value of a good education, this perspective isn’t easy to come by when you’re deep in the trenches of middle school geometry. (Side poll: How many of your kids complain about going to school every. single. day?). For most of us, school was something we took for granted as a part of life that we didn’t have much choice over.
But imagine the positive impact education could bring if we made the first day of school something fun for kids to actually look forward to? And what if that special first day included lots of candy? That’s exactly what happens in Germany.
The beginning of first grade in Germany, known as Einschulung, is met with festivities beginning on a Saturday (yes, really) in which students and their parents are invited to a special ceremony.
In an effort to give youngins something to look up to, the ceremony kicks off with an assembly performance by the older kids at the school (you know, the ones that have a solid three years of schooling under their belt).
Then, after an address from the principal, the soon-to-be first-graders are given a zuckertute — a large cone or school bag filled with candy, school supplies, like pencils and erasers, and even toys!
Each zuckertute is custom-made for the student by their parents and grandparents, complete with personalized decorations and their name written on the cone. It’s basically a Christmas stocking for their first day of school!
The zuckertute is also an important aspect of the school ceremony, as it shows the kids that they are not only supported by their classmates and teachers, but by their families as well. It takes a village, after all.
Traditionally, the zuckertutes were brought to school the night before the ceremony by the students’ grandparents and were hung on a metal “school-cone tree,” with the intention of having the student find their cone the following day. These days, however, the zuckertutes are presented as a gift from parents and grandparents.
And just when these kids think their first day of school couldn’t get any sweeter, the party continues at home with a special dinner to honor this important milestone.
We celebrate holidays. We celebrate birthdays. And further down the line, we celebrate job successes. Why not celebrate an education that’s going to influence the rest of a child’s life?
If American kids knew there were toys at the end of the first-day-of-school tunnel, I think they’d surely be a lot more excited about it!