Colorful paper shaped into large cones decorated and stuffed with candy, snacks and school supplies – topped with a stuffed animal – was handed out to first-graders concluding their first day of school on Wednesday.
It’s all part of a German tradition known as Schultüte – a rite of passage marking the start of a child’s first school year.
The word Schultüte translates to “school cone” and is traditionally filled with sweets and toys hidden inside a large cone distributed by friends and family in parts of Germany.
It has evolved since its introduction in 1810 and its migration to North America, and cones now include school supplies, such as pencils, erasers, and crayons to set a child up for success.
The centuries-old tradition is kept alive through the Steuben Society, part of the German-American Society of New Braunfels, and strives to pass on its German heritage to future generations.
The Steuben Society, which was established 15 years ago, has adopted this custom and passed it on to several schools over the years.
“At home you’ve been playing, and all of a sudden you have to go to school and you have a strict schedule,” Helgard Suhr-Hollis said. “It was a nice custom to ease the hardships of schooling…We just thought it would be nice to keep these German traditions alive here in Texas.”
This year, first graders at Cross Lutheran School received the cones, which were handcrafted and decorated with stickers by members of the Steuben Society, to mark the next chapter in their lives.
Dressed in traditional German clothing, members of the Steuben Society visited the children to explain the tradition and its history while teaching them the importance of New Braunfels’ German connections.
Then came the time for the cones – a message of wishes for the next school year stuck inside.
The cones were distributed by members of the society involved in administering the tradition to excited first-graders, bouncing in anticipation, as they walked out of the classroom, and were sent off with their treats . It is only a German custom, held by the Steuben Society, that they are trying to pass on.
At the beginning of December, the company will take part in another centuries-old tradition – Nikolaustag, or St. Nicholas. The childhood custom is to leave shoes or stockings out overnight, and when the children wake up they’d be filled with chocolates, nuts and fruit, like oranges – but only if they were good for a while. the year.