The first day at School

The big day finally arrived yesterday: our daughter started school.

The day started at 9am with a church service, where the children were blessed and the satchels were sprinkled with holy water.  From there, it was a 20 minute walk to the primary school.

Starting school: with the Schultüte in front of the Church

Starting school: with the Schultüte in front of the Church

Inside the school, we were crowded into a side area of the entrance hall where, after a few words from the headmistress, the children were called up one-by-one to join their new teachers, who then led them in groups off to their classrooms through an aisle of over-sized raised pencils.

Thus began the long wait outside, during which we were fed and watered by the Förderverein (a sort of “Friends of…” association).

And while we waited, our daughter was being told the rules of the classroom, was given her first homework (!), her timetable and even a school T-Shirt.  Her satchel was also loaded up with various papers for us to read, and some to sign.  Finally, we were allowed to collect her and take her home to open her Schultüte and, of course, for her to do her first homework.

The day is a major event for German schoolchildren, much more than the first day of school in many other countries.  The children are accompanied by their parents, grandparents and even godparents who, where possible, spend the whole day with them.

It means that the children are at the centre of attention on their big day, and our daughter mastered the event brilliantly.  We are so proud of her!


An Osterfeuer is a bonfire that is lit on the evening of Easter Saturday, usually in connection with a Church service.

Different parts of Germany associate the fire with different traditions.  In Bavaria it is also called the Judasfeuer and a straw figure, similar to a guy, is burnt upon the fire representing Judas Iscariot.  In Westfalia it is said to banish the winter.

Some churches have a candle-light service on Saturday evening rather than a fire.

To hear a simple explanation and a short discussion in German, listen to the podcast:

(Press the “play” button to listen to the podcast)

Download a transcript

Download the MP3 file | Subscribe to the podcast

New in 2009: how to get married in Germany

Almost every student of German will know that you cannot get married in a church in Germany without going to the registry office to get married there first.  This either results in the weddings being on the same day, consecutive days, or even months apart.

This is all down to a little known law called the “Reichsgesetz über die Beurkundung des Personenstands und die Eheschließung” which was passed in 1875 and is currently included in the “Personenstandsgesetz”.

That law took away the power of the churches to legally marry people, and instead passed this on to the state.  This law is about to change.

The “Personenstandsrechtsreformgesetz” makes a number of changes to the way in which the Standesämter – who register births, marriages and deaths in Germany – work.  The most significant change means that it will be possible to get married in a church, legally, without having to go to the registry office first.

The protestant Church in Germany has, however, announced that it is not planning any changes and will still only carry out weddings after the civil ceremony.

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