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The Sugar Cone Tree - An East German Tradition

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Date05 Nov 2021

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There are a lot of local traditions in Germany. One of them is the “Zuckertütenbaum” (literally the sugar cone tree). As you already know, school starters in Germany receive a "Zuckertüte" (sugar cone) or "Schultüte" (school cone) on their big day. The term Zuckertüte is widely used in East Germany whereas in West Germany it is called Schultüte. This cone is filled with all kinds of sweets, but also useful things for everyday school life (lunch box, eraser, pencils, etc.) and are intended to ease the fear of school for the "ABC shooters" (ABC-Schützen), as school beginners are also called, and to "sweeten" this important day in their lives.

The children are intensively prepared in the kindergarten for their entry into school. The older ones attend the "pre-school" in the last year. This means that they are prepared for the start of school as a group at regular intervals. For example, they visit a school and are allowed to observe everyday school life as spectators, learn numbers and counting through play or train motor skills that are just as important in school as the concentration that is trained in the process.

In preschool, however, they also do handicrafts and paint together. The sugar cone is a popular motif. The anticipation of this sweet gift makes it easier for many children to leave the security of kindergarten and enter the "serious side of life", as adults often call the start of school. Since most children spend between 6 and 9 hours a day in kindergarten from the age of 3 at the latest or even earlier, they naturally develop a close bond with "their" teacher and their friends in the group. It is therefore understandable that some find it visibly difficult to say goodbye to the kindergarten. However, the anticipation of the sugar cone alleviates this sorrow for most children and at the same time fills them with pride in their new status as "school children".

The German local tradition of the "Schultüte" as part of German culture goes way back. There are first references in 1817 (Jena), 1820 (Dresden) and 1936 (Leipzig) respectively.* The author of the very popular and beautiful children's book "The Bunny School", Albert Sixtus (1892-1960), wrote the book "The Sugar Cone Tree" in verse in 1928. Another children's book by Moritz Heger, the "Zuckertütenbuch für alle Kinder, die zum ersten Mal in die Schule gehen" (The sugar cone book for all children who go to school the first time) (1852) also picks up on this tradition. According to that, a sugar cone tree grows in the cellar of the school, from which the teacher picks a sugar cone for the children at the beginning of school.**

Do you want to learn more about local traditions in Germany? Check out our article about Lüftlmalerei, a folk art painting style in the South of Germany.

Sometimes there is a sugar cone tree in the garden of an East German kindergarten, on which small, often self-made sugar cones are attached. The children believe that they will start school when the sugar cones have grown sufficiently and are thus "ripe" for picking.

The so-called "Zuckertütenfest" plays an important role in this context. This East German local tradition is a very emotional ceremony in which the prospective schoolchildren are given a big send-off from kindergarten. They often pick a small Zuckertüte from the Sugar cone tree, which is their farewell gift from kindergarten. With this small cone in their hands, the children look forward to the big school cone they will receive on the day of their "introduction to school". This takes place on the Saturday before the end of the summer holidays and thus the start of school. Since the holiday dates in Germany vary depending on the federal state, this also applies to the dates of the school start celebrations.

An unforgettable souvenir that many children also receive as a memento of their time in the kindergarten is the so-called "Kindergarten Diary". In this learning folder, which the teachers lovingly create for each child during their years in the kindergarten, the most important developmental steps of the children are documented. Photos and pictures remind us of the festivals, celebrations, excursions and other highlights of kindergarten. In addition, the teachers write an annual "learning story" for each child. It describes how the development has progressed, what important progress the child has made, what observations they have made about the child's behaviour in various situations or recalls the best experiences from the past months. This learning history is complemented by collected pictures of the child from that year, which are also carefully kept and given to the children as a reminder. Thus, the "Kindergarten Diary" documents the entire development of the child in its own works and the words of the kindergarten teacher and is, especially for the parents, a wonderful reminder of this time.

Incidentally, the oldest sugar cone factory also comes from eastern Germany. The Nestler company in Ehrenfriedersdorf has been producing the school cones by hand since 1910 and sells up to 2 million of the famous sugar cones every year in different sizes and with many motifs, which have also changed over time and adapted to the children's ever-changing "idols" from films and books. In this way, they "sweeten" the start of school for millions of children and arouse anticipation for this big and important day in a child's life.

Reinhard Lakomy and Monika Ehrhardt, a famous musical duo, dedicated their own song about the Zuckertütenbaum in the musical radio play for children "Mimmelitt, das Stadtkaninchen" (1984).

This tradition, like many traditions in Germany, is rather a local one, celebrated mainly in eastern Germany. So not all Germans know it and are therefore often surprised to see little Zuckertüten hanging from a tree when school enrollment is imminent.

* https://www.mdr.de/zeitreise/zuckertuete-geschichte-100.html

** https://www.lokalkompass.de/marl/c-kultur/auf-den-spuren-der-schultuete_a572444

Written by: Annett Lorenz

Photo Credit: Botpopbot - Pixabay 

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#german culture#german cultural facts#german local traditions#local traditions in germany