This Thursday evening we made Zuckertüten.
Eine Zuckertüte is a great big paper cone filled with sweets, chocolate and useful school supplies – pencils, felt tip pens, stickers, notebooks and sharpeners – and decorated however you please. On the first day of a fresh school year, pupils carry their home-made Zuckertüte to class in their arms – a good luck charm of sorts (or at the very least – a helpful sugar supply if the day doesn’t go to plan!)
So when I was tasked with illuminating some aspect of German culture to twenty teenage Girl Guides, I alighted upon Zuckertüten. Everyone loves a sugar rush. I was slightly nervous walking home from work, even more so as I pulled my blue and white dirndl from the gloomy depths of my wardrobe and tied the apron around my waist in a looping bow.
I know teenage girls can be mean. I know that the perfection of the glazed ‘I’m so bored’ eye roll is something of a badge of honour when you’re fourteen (I was pretty good at it once, too) – but happily, I had no need to worry. These girls, despite aforementioned eye-rolling talents, loved – and I mean, loved – the Zuckertüten. Galvanised by sugar no doubt, they rolled up their sleeves and committed themselves to the task. They asked questions and asked where I’d got my dress. They examined the pictures of Zuckertüten I had taped to the wall with pathologist-like patience. They cut and glued and decorated and perfected. I was so proud.
Germany doesn’t always get the best press round these parts. Call it ingrained prejudices, or simply ignorance, but German is difficult and the allure of French with its stylish denizens, red wine and la belle vie de Paris is a siren song difficult to ignore. I hope, though, that the small gesture of making a Zuckertüte – that quintessential German tradition – enamoured at least a few to the thought of German-speaking lands.
Austria, Germany, Switzerland. They all have their charms. Mountains and lakes and sparkling cities – stylish denizens, red wine,das schönes deutsches Leben. Zuckertüten, you see, are only the beginning . . .