Sunday, May 14, 2006

The Sugar Bag Tree

"All over the country at this time of the year, six-year-olds exchange the carefree childhood of kindergarten for the serious side of life – “der Ernst des Lebens” – when they spend their first day at school. For nearly 200 years, parents have attempted to publicly mark this transition and sweeten the blow by providing their offspring with the candy-filled cones to clutch during the opening ceremony.

The origins of the tradition can be traced back to Saxony, Thuringia, Silesia, and Bohemia. As early as 1817 in Jena and 1820 in Dresden, children starting school were being presented with simple, conical paper bags, such as you can still find at a greengrocer’s or outdoor market, containing pastries or candy.

Other children looked forward to picking their bags from the Zuckertütenbaum or sugar-bag tree. This magical tree, so the story went, grew in the cellar or the attic of the schoolhouse and all good diligent first-graders could pluck one of the delectable cones from its branches. In some areas, real trees on the school grounds were decorated with the filled cones. In 1928, Albert Sixtus and Richard Heinrich produced a popular illustrated children’s book called Der Zuckertütenbaum" [ebay]

Der Zuckertütenbaum ('The Sugar Bag Tree') is online at the wonderful Traumstadt Museum - click at the bottom of the page.
[I pasted together some of the line drawings from the text pages for the collage above] There's only one other book with Richard Heinrich illustrations that I could spot.
He did beautiful work.

1 comment :

pita ou franck said...

that's a so sweet tradition ,and a good idea for transform this scary first day school in a feast, we don't have it in France...
and thanks for this beautiful book
Have a nice sunday

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