|In Germany, the first day of school has long been acknowledged as a special occasion with customs that have been documented back to the middle ages. Depending on the region, it may have taken the form of a special church service, at the conclusion of which the children may have been led in a procession to the school, or they were presented with cookies that had been baked in the shape of letters or the pieces of slate that, until well into the middle of the last century, where used for the first tentative tries at writing legible letters and numbers.
The custom of the "Schultuete" proper goes back to about 1810, to Saxony and Thuringia at Germany's easternmost borders, where sweets were given to the children on this day. The first documented report of the cone-shaped Schultuete proper comes from the city of Jena in 1817, closely followed by reports from Dresden (1820) and Leipzig (1836). It started in the bigger cities but spread quickly to the small towns and villages, soon becoming an institution all over Germany.
The custom that started in Saxony and Thuringia but which was not adopted in other parts of the country was that the chlidren were not given their Schultuete directly. Marked with the students' names, they were taken to the school by parents or godparens and in a habit reminiscent of the Mexican pinata, hung on a metal "Schultueten-Baum" (Schoolcone tree) from which each child had to pick their cone. Without breaking them, of course.
The only custom that has changed in the later half of the 20th century is that less and less sweets seem to appear in the Schultuete, with more practical gifts such as crayons and pencils, small toys, CDs, books and even articles of clothing replacing the tooth decay-inducing sweet stuff.