Packing for the journey.

When Hungarian children leave their primary school for secondary school they each are given a small felt bag, a little bit like a shoulder purse. The bag is made of felt with the national plant – paprika – printed in red against the soft creamy, oatmeal colour of the felt bag. The bag has a little shoulder string that allows the child to carry their bag over their shoulder if they wish to. The bag is also printed with the dates that they attended the school; the one I was given in Hungary has 1980-1988 printed on the bag flap.

The bag is simple and elegant and children love and treasure them – often into adult life. But is what the bag contains that is of real interest. Each child is given a bag to help them cope with the future they face and to remind them of where they first learned about life and found themselves as a part of a caring community.

In the bag each child will have:

  • a small homemade sweet cake so that they will always have something to eat
  • a photograph of their primary school as a reminder of their early school days and where they have come from
  • a large glass marble to remind them that they are part of a world greater than themselves
  • a tiny bag of earth to remind them that they are Hungarians and the importance of their country, and
  • finally they will have in their bag a coin, in my case a 10 filler piece (a tiny amount of money, but money none the less) to help me remember I am not ‘penniless’. The bag reminds the child of what they have learned and how they are prepared for the future.

What would your children put in their bag? What would their bag be made of? How would their bag be decorated? A bag for the future to remind them that what they have done in their early years prepares them for success, responsibility and maturity in their later life – what would this look like and why? The extension of this idea would, of course, be for the bags to be made and for each Year 6 child to have one with all the contents the children decide are important and for the children to take as they leave one part of their lives for another.

What would have been in your bag?

Apart from photographs of delicious Hungarian food this site has a rather splendid picture of some paprika:

Thanks to John Senior for this brainteaser.

First published in Primary G&T Update, December 2006