pic (c) Rainer Sturm / PIXELIO.de
The so-called “Einschulung” in Germany is a BIG thing! The “Einschulung” is the very first day a child goes to school as a 1st grader. It's always on the first day after the summer holidays, and 2 or 3 days after school has started. It is therefore on a different date in each state.
The school makes it a big event, inviting the grandparents and parents who usually take the day off to participate. Most schools have “Aulas”, a big hall used for such events, where everybody assembles. Depending on the size of the hall and the number of classes starting, it is either one joint or several subsequent events, but usually all on the one day.
The preparation starts during the last days before the summer holidays. Some schools hand out a list of material which they advise to buy and put into the brand new sachel or the so-called "Schultüte".
Aaah yes, the "Schultüte"! It probably only exists in German speaking countries as a custom. It is a paper conical magicians hut put upside down. Every 1st grader gets one! However, be careful to buy the right one! First of all, there are two sizes – a small and a bigger one. It is the bigger one! The smaller one is either for younger siblings or some parents buy them for the first day of “Vorschule” (pre-school, handled slightly different in each state and only institutionalised in Hamburg). You will see all kinds of "Schultüten" on the day, but if you stick to the above advice, your child will be happy. You can buy simple or fancy ones or a lot of mothers create a self-made "Tüte" with a lot of passion. You are free to put anything you wish inside. However, the celebration is not like a birthday, it is about the child having completed its first stage of childhood and entering the next stage which is education and learning. Hence, the presents ideally refer to that theme. The value of the presents is usually moderate. The "Schultüte" stays sealed until after the classroom visit (at least that's the common rule) to prevent the children from too much distraction. You will find a lot of forum discussion over the issue. It seems to cause considerable confusion as it is handled differently in each school. The above rule of thumb should guide you safely. However you may contact the school for recommendations and advice, or ask parents who have schooled a child in the same school.
The day usually starts with a speech from the headmaster congratulating the children on their newly gained seniority (compared to the kindergarten children). They are welcomed on board and it is outlined roughly what is expected. Often the 4th graders have learnt a show, musical or play prior to the summer holidays which they then present to the young audience. The teachers are also introduced. It is common that the pupils are called individually to the front to greet their teacher and they may receive a flower as a welcome gift.
Thereafter, the teacher guides his or her pupils to the class room, usually without parents. The teacher will show the yard, toilets and explain the tools that are prepared in the classroom – basically just showing them around. Some teachers also introduce Fu and Fara, or the elk children (popular learning concepts), or any other mascot used to make learning fun. Whether there is a seating plan or not, is irrelevant should your child be unhappy with its initial place. A re-arrangement will happen shortly after the teacher has gotten to know his or her pupils. That may bring a little comfort to the child. The whole foray takes about 45 minutes. During this time the parents are invited to the cafeteria for a cake buffet which has been prepared from the parents of older children. This is highly individual and may be handled differently in your school.
The afternoon is usually spent with the family, including the godparents, but not the child's friends. A restaurant is visited or a big meal is served at home, the Schultüte gets unpacked and the sachel is shown around. However, ask around how the parents of former pupils have spent the afternoon.