Schultüte: A timely tradition to create potent memories
Summer is so quickly coming to an end. Creating memories with our children is usually the goal and I feel we were quite successful this year. We do this during the school year as well but the summer holiday offers more concentrated doses of time brimming with opportunity. May I share some of the motivation for this emphasis on memory-making and a favorite new tradition we are testing out?
School, books and media are always asking us and our children about the difference we will make in the world but do you ever ask yourself: "What am I leaving behind?" or "What will I be remembered for?" on a domestic scale?
Our memorable summer nights in Wales last month
My grandmother left potent memories and a million triggers to conjure them. My wife claims that this particular grandmother has claimed a good portion of the world around us because so many things remind me of her. She wasn't vivacious or overly opinionated. She simply loved life and let us know. I know her favorite animals (penguins and giraffe), the flowers she liked best and their names (all of them), the smells she was fond of (anise, cinnamon, and lilac) and her favorite sports teams (BYU and the 49'ers). Every time I see someone in the neighborhood cutting down a tree or taking out a bush I think of the time she cried almost hysterically when they removed the shrubbery around our church. She felt the same way when, as a boy, I buzzed my head. I haven't buzzed it since.
She also owns the color red. A good red lipstick, ascot, hair bow or pair of shades reminds me of something her father once told her and she lived by: "Always wear a bit of red around your face". I love these sparks of memory and I do my best to pass them on to my children giving her the claim and keeping her memory alive and well. Am I this memorable to my children? Will my friends and family have mental reminders of me when I am gone?
Sociologists talk about family narratives as the cure to all sorts of social ills. We are far less likely to lose our way (mentally, morally or otherwise) if we know where we come from. Creating a personal and family narrative has become an important element of life. My fascination with celebrations, traditions, travel and distinct objects stems from this desire to form a narrative for my family and friends that will ground us all and remind us (when we need it) of who we are, what we hold dear, and where joy and confidence dwell. Thus, I regularly find myself enamored by foreign traditions or those of a bygone era.
All dressed up with their Schultute for the first day of school
One of these traditions I would love to share as the school year looms ahead is the schultüte tradition from Germany. I love this tradition and have not yet fully developed it in my own family. It's a work in progress. Starting way back in the early 1800's the grandparents or godparents in most German-speaking areas of Europe would make a beautifully decorated paper cone for a child's first day of school. They would be told a story that when the fruit is ripe on the schultuten-baum, it is time to go to school. The school would have a designated tree or even a metal tree made to hang the school cones on.
Schultuten-baum with onlookers
When the child arrived on the first day of school he or she would look for the cone bearing their own name and carefully remove it. They would open it to find sweets, school supplies, even toys and clothing.
I love this simple tradition because of what it celebrates. We believe in education and in making it sweet. I want my children to know that school is a privilege and I want them to connect high-impact days with a sense of pleasure and a token of my love. I have yet to fully enact this tradition which involves grandparents and the school board or at least the PTA. However, the first day of school, my kids find in the tree by our front porch a little cone. We take their picture and let them open the cone on the way to school. They are simple to make and ours are quite small, but they are meaningful. We have two different types of cones. If you want something durable, to use year after year, we have these metal celebration cones.
Or we have our festive paper cones that are a bit smaller, but can still be stuffed with goodness. Some of my favorite things to put in the cones are these pencils with clever book references and sayings. I also love the ideas of a surprise ball clementine to unwrap. I also love all these tiny little treasures like washi tape, pocket crayons, matchbox blocks, matchbox games, brass boxes, wooden spinning tops, and more. For teens, things like a silk hair ribbon, clothespin book light, a brass heart bookmark, or book darts would also be fun! Shop our back-to-school collection for treasures to fill your cones.
My memorable grandma also owns many of my school memories. She didn't know about schultuten but her house was along the route home from school and she always had a cookie (more often store bought than homemade) and sometimes bread pudding for me. It meant we got a few minutes together almost every day. Needless to say my education was made sweet by my family. My family narrative is rich and lasting because of them as well.