My first experience of the French school system was, of course, when my babies started at nursery school. Inevitably I compared to the system I had known in the UK. Many things were different, some I liked , some not. This happens when you travel, you end up wanting the best of all worlds!!
A detail that I always found charming was on the list of items required by the child starting a new school year was a 'porte-serviette'. A napkin holder. At our local nursery and primary school, every child had to bring their own napkin for use at lunch time in the school canteen.
Each Monday morning, the child was sent off to school with a clean napkin (complete with sewn on name label) in their -also labelled - napkin bag. Each Friday afternoon, the napkin was returned home in the school bag to be laundered over the weekend. During the week the bags were kept in a basket in the classroom and distributed to each pupil after they washed their hands, on their way to lunch.
I soon discovered that there was a sort of pride and tenderness put into the confection of the napkin bags. They had to be pretty, easily identifiable, a little lunch-time reminder to our offspring that someone at home was thinking about them.
I found some of these old napkin bags at a brocante this weekend, not really antique, but nicely vintage. You can find them in my shop, inexpensive little 'souvenirs de France'.