Back-to-School Traditions in Germany

Posted on August 24, 2018
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Categories: Multilingual Family Support

Have you ever wondered what back-to-school season is like in other countries? In many areas of the world, students and parents prepare for the new school year just as we do here in the U.S.: they shop for school clothes, wait for deals on school supplies, and look forward to reconnecting with classmates and teachers.

Some countries have unique Back to School traditions. Germany has been at the forefront of education for centuries, particularly early childhood education. (Fun fact: The concept of Kindergarten originated in Germany and the first Kindergartens in the U.S. were even opened by German immigrants.) When a child starts school in Germany, they participate in a number of traditions to signify the rite of passage into their schooling years.

“Einschulung,” or Enrollment Day, occurs on a Saturday—that’s right, school on a Saturday!—and involves the entire family. The day starts with a church service and an official ceremony. The school principal usually gives a speech and other students who already attend the school perform songs, dances, and poems for the primary school students and their families. The celebrations continue even after the school bell rings. Typically in younger grades, school is out by lunchtime, but on Enrollment day, families participate in parties and have meals together well into the afternoon.

Did you know that backpacks are a big deal in Germany when it comes to back-to-school shopping? It’s true! Germans call their backpacks “schulranzen,” which means school satchel. They are important because of their historical significance: schulranzen date back to the German Tornister bag, which were military backpacks used in the 17th century. These backpacks were made from leather and wooden frames. Today’s schulranzen have convenience in mind, however, and are made of light plastic, with wide straps and reflectors for added safety.

One of the most interesting back-to-school traditions in Germany occurs when children are given a Schultüte, or “school bag,” which is also known as a Zuckertüte, meaning “sugar bag.”  Zuckertüte are aptly named: they are paper or cloth cones filled with school supplies, candy, and other goodies. This tradition dates back to the 18th century, when parents would surprise their children with sweet shop-filled cones on their very first day of school. The paper cone signifies the child’s change in status as someone who now goes to school.

Back to School is an exciting time, not just in America, but all over the world. The FACE Office wishes all families and students a happy return to school!