Lyra will be in first grade in the fall, which reminded me of a German tradition I had forgotten about: the Schultüte.
Since about the beginning of the 19th century, German school kids get a Schultüte on the first day of first grade. It’s a big cone made out of heavy paper, decorations on the outside and tied shut at the top with a bow. They look like this:
The Schultüte is filled with candy and small items useful for school (like colored pencils or erasers). They’re usually purchased commercially, but some families make them from scratch. The Schultüte is an extremely common thing in Germany, but I don’t think any other culture has the same custom. I don’t know how it started, and even the German Wikipedia article is fuzzy about the origins of the Schultüte, but it’s been the thing to do for a first-grader’s first day going on two hundred years now.
(In Germany, Kindergarten is not part of the regular school system like in the U.S., so the start of “real” school is the first day of first grade.)
I’m thinking about making one for Lyra, but doing an Americanized version: candy, McDonald’s coupons, an iPod, a brick of .22 ammo…