The Germans have a charming custom of presenting a cone full of "goodies" to a child on their first day of school. The first day of school is a stressful time for most children and this helps to sweeten the experience. I'm not sure why it was a cone, but many available images show boys with cones. The first day cones include candy, school supplies, clothes, toys, etc. One of the names for the cone is "Zuckertüte" and the celebration is known as "Schulanfangfeier". Images from the early 20th century show that this was a very popular custom. I am not sure when it began, but we know that the custom still continues in modern Germany. The cones vary greatly in size and are decorated in various ways. Some of the cones are nearly as large as the boy. The boys were photographed with their Zuckertüten, sometimes in a photographic studio. I din't think that the bpys actaully took the Zuckertutes to school, but a German reader tells me that indeed did. Some photographs also show that many children did so (figure 1). A German reader writes, "HBC uses Zuckertüte for these cones. This is a term I'm less familiar with, we called them Schultüten. These Schultüten are common since the late 19th century, they first were hung on Christmas trees, besides other items, later they were used as special present to sweeten the first day at school."
The Germans have a charming custom of presenting a cone full of "goodies" to a child on their first day of school. The first day of school is a stressful time for most children. This was especially the case for the children that didn't go to Kinfergarten. Leaving the safe home envirment to spend the day with strange people is a major life step. So to help sweeten the whole experience for the new new scholars. Children at age 6 have no way of understanding the importance of education. They can, however, understand sweets and toys. And such a delightful gift helps not only to distrct them from the somewhat frightening experience, but also to impress upon them the importance of the event. The school cones proved so popular that they became a German tradition that continues to this time.
Images from the early 20th century show that this was a very popular custom. I am not sure when it began, nor do I know when the custom ended. We are not positive about the chronology of these cones. The custom of giving these cones appear to have begun in the late 19th cenury, although most of our actual photographic images date from the 1920s. The photographic image we have begin at the turn of the 20th century. This suggests that this was when this custom began widespread. A German reader writes, "HBC uses Zuckertüte for these cones. This is a term I'm less familiar with, we called them Schultüten. These Schultüten are common since the late 19th century, they first were hung on Christmas trees, besides other items, later they were used as special present to sweeten the first day at school." Some of these images have been used in the German first day of school section. German readers tells us that these conens continue to be given to children on their first day of school.
We are not sure how this cone tradition developed. We also do not know just why a cone shape container was adopted, but all the the available images show boys and girls with these cone-shaped Zuckertüten. The cones vary greatly in size and are decorated in various ways. Most are about the same size. At least most of the images we have found show simiarly sized cones within a defined range. Class portraits confirm that the cones were commonly about the same size. Not all, however, were these standard sizes. Some of the cones are nearly as large as the child. Other cones are quite small. There was also a wide range of decorations. There are both home-made and store bought cones. A German reader writes, " The normal way is that the parents buy an empty cone and fill it with things. There are cases that parents make the cones themself. Then the cone can be decorated very personal. My kindergarden-cone was self made: orange cone, blue crepe paper at the top, and decorated with black cats. (I wanted it because I love cats)."
Most children got one Schultüten which was purchased by their parents. Almost all the available school portraits show the children with just one cone of varying sizes. We have found a few portraits where the children have more than one cone, usually two cones. We are not sure why some children had more than one xone. We suspect it was doting grandparents who purchased the second cone. Normally the second come is smaller than the first principal cone. A few children may have taken the second cone to school with them. We think it might have been more common to have two cones, but not take the second cone to school. Thus only one cone shows up in the first day portraits.
We have little information about what is in these cones. The conents of these cones were quite varied. And given the size of the cones, quite a mix of little items could be included. The cones include candy, school supplies, clothes, toys, etc. Unfortunalely few of the available photographs provide any clues to the contents. We know there was candy. One photograph shows boys enjoying candy (presumably) chocolate cigars and playing with a toy gun. We suspect that these were a bit more popular than school supplies. A German reader tells us that the cones were filled with, "sweets (candy), school supplies (pencil, rubber (eraser), etc.), very little toys (inexpensive ones)". The children were of course excited about all the loot coming their way, which helped take the fright away from that first day of school. They were also very curious as to just what was in their cone. It was tied up at the top with wht looks like celophane, making it difficult to figure just what they got.
We notice cones done in all kinds of sizes. Some were very small. Ithers were as tall s the child. Of course size mattered because it affected how much good stuff could be crmmed inside. A factor here was social class. Woeking-class parents had to watch their phenings. The smaller cones of course were less expenive or less exensive to fill. An exception here is the small cones bought for younger brothers and sisters so they will not feel bad when their older sibling gets huge cone. A reader writes, "HBC have lots of pictures about these cones. The pictures show they vary in size. I recall one of a plump boy with a gigantic cone. Another picture shows a boy with several.. The cones are of different sizes. The thought that occured to me was that the size might not match what was inside. I am reminded of a birthday party I attended recently. There was one enormous present but when it was opened it turned out to be a joke and eventually the gift was found which was enclosed in a series of bigger boxes. Maybe that happened with these cones too. A big cone was given but the contents did not fill it." We suspect that even the big cones were filled up, but we have few actual sources.
I'm not sure what the process for preparing these cones. Usually the mother buys an empty cone and then filled it up with items that she selected for her child. This would seem the most appropriate as items could be purchased that suited the individual child. Ortherwise there would seemingly have to be boy and girl cones. Candy cigars and toy guns would, for example, not have been very popular with girls or dolls for boys. A German reader writes, "Well, there may be cones preferred by boys (for example decorated with cars) and for a girlish cones in pink but generally there are no rules what is for boys or girls." Some of these cones may have been purchased already filled, but generally German readers tell us that they were filled by the parents. One clue is in the photograph here. Note how all the cones are sealed at the top. This looks professionally done, suggesting that perhaps the cones were purchased already sealed. But I guess German mothers were just very good at such things.
The school goody cone custom was very widely observed in Germany. It is still is, but is not as common. As far as we can tell, almost all children in the 1920s and 30s got one of these cones. There are huge numbers of first day portraits. They show children both with and without these cones. But of course a portrait without a cone does not necesarily mean the child did not get one. More revealing are class portraits. We see quite a few class portraits with all the children holding a cone. The school had nothing to do with the cones, but did not discourage the practice. The children did bring the cones to school. Much less common are school portraits that show some of the children did not get cones. This must have happened to some extent, especially in the early-1930s with ther onset of the Depression. This must have been rather hard on the children who did not get them, but in the available portraits they do not seem all that disappointed.
One of the names for the cone is "Zuckertüte" and the celebration is known as "Schulanfangfeier". Zuckertüte means "sweets" or "sugar" cone. (The German word for sugar comes from the Arabic as did the Spanish word. Until the development of colonies in the Caribbean, sugar in Europe was very expensive and came from the Arabs.) Schultüten was also used meaning "sweets cone". Schulanfangfeier means school beginning ceremony/celebration. A German reader writes, "HBC uses Zuckertüte for these cones. This is a term I'm less familiar with, we called them Schultüten. These Schultüten are common since the late 19th century, they first were hung on Christmas trees, besides other items, later they were used as special presents to sweeten the first day at school."
The children were photographed with their Zuckertüten, often in a photographic studio. We see many family snap shots, but studio portraits were very common through the 1950s. Thee were not portraits of the cones of course, bbut a type of first day school portraits. And this poses another little wrinkel to the Zuckertüte tradition. We have thought it must have been frustrating for a 6-year old to have to take his cone to school and wait all day to tear into it, not to mention the issue of poor children who did not gert cones or children with small cones. But the studio portrait mean that the child had to wait even longer to get into his cone. We are not entirely sure when the studio portraits were taken, but we would guess that it was before the actual first day of school. This mean the poor child had to wait even longer. Some children may have been taken to the portrait studio after school, but surely the studios would have had difficulty taking all these portraits in the few hours after school. I know as a 6-year old I would have had great difficulty carrying one of these gidt cones around all day without getting into it and if photographed a day or so before it would have been even more frustrating. Perhaps some of our German readers remember the experience.
There are countless portraits of German children with their Zuckertüten, wither individually or as class groups. Less clear is just how the Firsr Day proceeded. I didn't think that the boys actaully took the Zuckertüten to school, but German readers tell me that they did. Some photographs show that many children did so (figure 1). A German reader tells us, "Of course, every little student carries it proudly to school. We were not allowed to open them until we returned home after school. Oh, that waiting was hard." HBC is amazed that children that age carted their cones around all day long without opening them. I don't think that would work in America. This all seems quite a charming custom. Given the different finances of families, especially in the late 19th and early 20th century, there must havebeen children from families that could not afford these cones. Seems like that would be a little sad to have to go to school where all the other kids had cones. It would have not been so bad if this was all done at home, but the cones were brought to school. Given the age of the children, this must have been a very sad day for the children without cones. In todays prosperous Germany there are rarely families that can not afford these cones. A German reader writes, "Well, it is surly a question or what a family can afford. Maybe today families with less money give their children cheaper cones but in former times lots of families were so poor they couldn't afford any Schultüte."
A German reader tells us that in 1933 the Nazis tried to establish a uniform Schultüte. I am not sure what official and at what level this effort was made. We notice one boy in 1933 with a Hakenkreuzschultüten--a gift cone with a swastica. This would have been done in September 1933. The NAZIs at that time had been in power only a few months. The idea apparently was not very popular. Almost all the cones we note have animals and characters on them that apparently were more appealing to 6-year old children. Notice all the different designs on the gift cones here (figure 1). The NAZis seem to have dropped the idea as even when the Party was in firm control of Germany we do not notice Hakenkreuzschultüten. A German reader tells us they remained a rare choice for these gift cones.
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