The Einschulung is a rite of passage.
In Germany, children can attend Kindergarten from age 3 until ages 6 or 7. Kindergarten is a place to learn independence from one’s parents, to socialize and learn to share and take turns, to develop one’s fine and gross motor skills, to increase one’s vocabulary and diction, to play and sing and paint and be read to and have fun. What it is not is a place to learn to actually read and write. That’s school. And that’s why the Einschulung is so important. It marks the paradigm change from Kindergarten to school.
In our town, the Saturday after school starts for most kids, and before the first graders begin, the first graders and their families are invited to the school to meet their teachers, show off their Shultüten and Schulränzen, have their first hour of instruction in the classroom, and receive a formal welcome from the school director, teachers and fellow students. It’s a big deal and everyone wants to support their “Ersteklässler.”
Katja’s teacher made a festive sign in her classroom so that parents could take pictures of their kids on the first “day” of school.
In the auditorium where the school director, teachers, and some third graders spoke and sang songs for us there was also a pretzel tree. At the end of the presentation, the director hung a pretzel around each first grader’s neck. Apparently, about 100 years ago, this was how the kids were sent to school so they wouldn’t loose their snack. He figured since our school is a few hundred years old, the tradition would be appropriate. I figure a pretzel tree is one of those “only in Germany” things.
Katja’s pretzel was completely eaten buy the time we got home.
Not only is this second week of school the Einschulung, but it is also the Wein Kerwe or town fest (oddly enough, wine is not featured predominantly). The kids enjoyed four days of rides, food, sweets, music and general fun (while I ran away to France for two of those days).
Favorite rides were a “time machine” where you sit in a moving theater while videos take you on a roller coaster ride through history, and trampolines with harness and bungees for really high bouncing. Here, the kids are hamming it up at the interactive fountain in the town center (the fountain is always there, although the beer and snack stands behind it are just for the fest). She’s a pretty princess and he’s trying out his tough guy pose as a knight (although I think it looks like maybe he’s scowling at a fist with a mind of it’s own).
Monday was the last day of the Kerwe, and since it takes place not only in the marketplace, but the school grounds as well, all the kids got released early from school. The kids in our town LOVE the Kerwe!