Tütjes- An Important Christmas Tradition

Tütje is the German word for the paper bag of treats children used to 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 mentioned tütjes in a Facebook post one December and received a host of tütje memories from my Facebook friends.

cousins at Christmas

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

With my siblings around the Christmas tree- age 10

As a child, my brother liked tütje time because it was the one occasion when the staid atmosphere of the church sanctuary erupted into noisy chaos. He remembers a church member who was 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.

Dave around age 7

My husband Dave had a similar experience. One December 24th  just before his family was to leave for the Christmas program at church a piece of coal got stuck in the boiler pipe in his family’s greenhouse on their vegetable farm in southern Ontario shutting the boiler down. Since my husband was the smallest in the family he was designated to crawl inside the boiler to remove the offending piece of coal so the boiler could get going again and keep all their precious plants from freezing.  However in order for him to crawl into the boiler, first all the coal had to be shovelled out.  So Dave had to stay home with his Dad to shovel coal and fix the boiler 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.

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……

A Christmas Story Written and Illustrated by Ten-Year-Olds

A Christmas Carol Saved Our Lives

The Family of Jesus Portrayed in a Controversial Way

 

 

 

7 Comments

Filed under Childhood, Food, Holidays

7 responses to “Tütjes- An Important Christmas Tradition

  1. I too have many fond tütje memories, including saying our little Gedicht to my grandparents before getting our little gifts from them. I saw similar traditions alive and well elsewhere when I married my Baptist wife and then when we saw similar traditions living in South America and Europe.

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  2. Brenda Fischer

    Oh! The memories!!!

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  3. Stan Schroeder

    This always part of our traditions in the Mennonite Church in Kansas and Colorado. I think it was the men who assembled the bags/Tüten. It’s difficult to find ribbon candies, “hard candies” etc. (formerly known as ‘Gloria Mix’) so I bought a bevy one year online and put them in the freezer. They keep remarkably well. Perfect.

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    • Thanks so much for reading my blog post. My grandparents were Mennonites who immigrated from Kansas to Canada in the early 1900s. My connection with Mennonites in Colorado was staying at the Arvada Mennonite Church when I was a young adult supervising a bunch of teenagers working in an institution for children and adults with mental and physical challenges.

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  4. Sherrilyn Fisher

    Exactly like our Christmas Eve treat in the Swiss Mennonite Church, Whitewater, Kansas! It was also the service in which the children presented the program, so I always felt it was an award of sorts for our hard work and out scared little lips presenting our “piece”.

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  5. Margaret Harms Adams

    Our church quit doing them Christmas 2018. My husband loved giving them to the kids. In 2019 business meeting they decided not to do them anymore!!! I was heartbroken. My husband had just passed and now no candy sacks either! I made up about 30 on my own (with a little help) for the kids and grandmas & grandpas!! Now this year we are doing them again, yeah!!! Because we cant have our little faspa afterwards because of COVID!!! Sorry about COVID but yeah for candy sacks!! I’m 68, had them all my life!!!

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