I was in charge of tütje shopping at my church this year. Tütje is the German word for the paper bag of treats children receive after the Christmas Eve service in Mennonite churches. The tütjes of my childhood contained a Christmas orange, candy cane, chocolates and lots of peanuts. I wasn’t sure how to spell tütje so I asked for advice on Facebook. I got plenty of spelling help but I also received a bunch of tütje memories from my Facebook friends.
Around the Christmas tree with my cousins at our grandparents in the early 60s
Margaret looked forward to the box of Cracker Jack in her childhood tütjes
Heidi’s tütjes included small cheeses.
Gabrielle remembers her tütje smelling of ginger.
Millie says the quality of the tütje depended on which man in the church had purchased the treats. If it was her father they were sure to have the best oranges and chocolate. If it was a certain Mr W they had to settle for sour lemon drops and pink spongy candy. Since not all tütjes were the same, Millie recalls fierce trading wars as she and her siblings swapped liquorice for ribbon candy or chocolates for oranges.
With my siblings around the Christmas tree- age 10
As a child, my brother liked tütje time at Grace Mennonite Church in Steinbach because it was the one occasion when the staid atmosphere of the sanctuary erupted into noisy chaos. He remembers Peter Dyck, a high school physical education teacher, throwing the tütjes across the pews and the kids having to catch them.
The fear of not getting a tütje loomed large. Helen recalls the year she had chickenpox on Christmas Eve and couldn’t attend church. Her main concern wasn’t her illness, but rather missing out on her tütje. She was so happy when her twin sister brought one home for her.
My husband Dave had a similar experience. One Christmas Eve a piece of coal got stuck in the boiler pipe in his family’s greenhouse in southern Ontario. Since my husband was the smallest he had to crawl inside the boiler to remove the offending piece of coal. However in order for him to crawl up to the pipe, first all the coal had to be shovelled out. The job couldn’t wait till after the church service because by then the greenhouse plants might be frozen. So Dave had to stay home with his Dad to shovel coal while the rest of the family went to church. Dave remembers not being nearly as upset about the work he had to do, as he was about missing out on his tütje. Thankfully his Mom brought one home for him.
I thought tütjes were a Mennonite tradition but Kathy received one in the Dutch Reform Church she attended.
Merle says it’s a tradition in the United Church too.
Cindy who grew up in a Mennonite church was astonished at the comparatively lavish nature of the tütjes when as an adult she began attending a Lutheran church with her family.
Barbara, who used to live in Taiwan, said churches there used candy bags to bribe children to come to church on Christmas Eve since the services were very long.
Jodi told me they hand out similar treat bags at Winnipeg’s McNally Robinson Book Store after their annual Santa breakfast.
Mary Anne said her extended family carries on the tütje tradition to this day with older grandkids buying the ingredients and family members getting together to assemble the bags, which are then placed beside each person’s Christmas stocking.
The tütje enthusiasm and nostalgia on my Facebook page made it clear they remain an important Christmas tradition. A special thanks to all my friends who shared their tütje memories. I wish I could have included them all.
Other Christmas posts……
The Magi Got Me Into Trouble
Jesus is Born
Christmas in Hong Kong