The German culture is rooted in fun, family-friendly customs and celebrations that have become beloved traditions at the German American School of Portland.
first day of school
In Germany, there's a tradition aimed at easing first grade jitters. Kids receive a large, colorful cardboard cone filled with goodies called a Schultüte, or school bag. Inside the Schultüten the children find little gifts, candy, and school supplies.
At the end of Kindergarten, the parents get together and make them, with help from Kindergarten teachers, for the children to open on the first day of school. When all the goodies have come out of the Schultüten, the empty cones will be hung up on the ceiling of the classroom for the rest of the school year, to remind the kids how exciting school can be. See OPB coverage of GSP 1. Schultag.
The days leading up to Ash Wednesday mark a time of revelry, merry-making, and celebration around the world. Some places more than others, however, seem to have the honor of hosting the grandest, most spectacular festivities. New Orleans has Mardi Gras. Venice has Carnevale. Southern Germany has Fasching.
Each year our choir, made up of the students from grades 3-5, performs at the Oaks Park Oktoberfest which takes place at the end of September. This beloved community celebration includes music, dancing, and traditional German foods.
St. Martin was a knight in Roman times who later became a monk. He was famous for his kindness and generosity. He was also known for his modesty and simplicity.
Falling on November 11, German children celebrate St Martin's Day by walking around the streets, after dark, carrying lanterns, and singing special songs (a bit like trick-or-treating). Children at GSP make a paper lantern based on their classroom’s lantern theme to carry in the parade. The children are rewarded for their singing and the beauty of their lanterns with sweets and other goodies. This year, GSP’s traditional Lantern Parade takes place at GSP and typically welcomes more than 400 participants.
Find out more about St. Martin’s Day
Make your own St. Martin’s Day Lantern
held the weekend before Thanksgiving
The Holiday Market is the school’s largest community event. The school is transformed into a traditional Christkindlmarkt (German Holiday Market) for a weekend with Nutcrackers, ornaments, advent calendars, German smokers and traditional German food, Glühwein (hot spiced wine) and holiday music. More than 2000 people visit this event from all over the Portland-metro area.
St. Nikolaus Day, or Eve, is celebrated on December 6. This is a favorite holiday of all children—it's a gift-giving day. When evening comes, St. Nikolaus, a reverend gray haired figure with a flowing beard, wearing gorgeous bishop's garments, gold embroidered cope, mitre and pastoral staff, knocks on doors and enquires about the behavior of the children. The custom of children citing a verse, singing, or otherwise showing their skills, is still widespread in German speaking countries. Each little one gets a gift for his or her performance.
At the school, the children leave a shoe outside the classroom on the eve of St. Nikolaus, and in the morning they are delighted to find it filled with treats like candies, fruit, and nuts.
Learn more about how St. Nikolaus Day is celebrated.