Swiss Christmas guide: How to celebrate Christmas the Swiss way
Every country in the world has its own Christmas customs. People nurture their tradition and teach their children in every generation. Switzerland, with its rich Christmas tradition, is no exception. In order to celebrate Christmas the Swiss way, we’ve decided to present you the special Swiss Christmas guide.
Of course, there are some universal things, such as presents, lights, and Christmas tree. But, besides that, there are unique Christmas activities and terms that we will talk about thoroughly. Hence, let’s go deep into the Swiss Christmas guide.
Adventsfenster (Advent Windows)
Similar to different Christmas calendars, Adventsfenster are used to count down days to Christmas eve. This custom is common in villages and smaller towns in Switzerland. What is it all about? In a village, there should be 24 people who decorate one or more of their windows in the Christmas theme. Every evening, from 1st to 24th December, one window gets opened. Each window has to be closed, until its time to get publicly revealed. People gather in front of every window to see the window opening and decoration. Every window has to stay lit until the Christmas Eve when the last 24th window gets revealed. Even though this custom is not usual in every single part of the country, it is still a vital part of the Swiss Christmas guide.
Adventskranz (Advent Wreath)
Adventskranz counting is a bit different – it counts the last four weeks before Christmas Eve. It represents a decorated, circular wreath with four large, fastened candles. The first candle has to be lit on Sunday, four weeks before Christmas Eve. After that, every other Sunday is reserved for the next candle. There is also one more custom called Rabeliechtli – small parades of beetroot lanterns. Children carve them at school, mostly with their teachers, and then walk around with them while singing songs through their villages.
Samichlaus is one of the essential pieces of the Swiss Christmas guide. In most countries around the world, Santa Claus comes on 24th December. Samichlaus, or Swiss Santa, comes on 6th December, with a massive bag of chocolates and fruits to share with everyone. In the evening, Samichlaus visits every family with his helper – Schmutzli. He knocks on the door, and people invite him to the house. Then, he calls out everyone and gives them a report on how they behave this year. After the report, children can improve their standing with Christmas recitations and Santa poems. A good poem provides a handful of treats, while no poem “means” that a kid will get carried off with Santa into his bag. Of course, it is only a motivation for kids to learn more and more poems and recitations. If you don’t know any of these recitations, you can easily learn this one:
Sami Niggi Näggi (Santa Claus)
Hinterem Ofe stecki (I’m behind the oven)
Gib mer Nuss und Bire (if you’ll give me nuts and pears)
de chumi weder füre. (I’ll come out.)
Almost every family in Switzerland, especially those with children, will make and decorate Christmas cookies. It is a traditional Christmas event where everyone participates. Every part of the country has its traditional cookies. Tirggel honey biscuits are from Zurich, Lackerli from Basel and aniseed cookies are from the Aargau canton. In German-speaking parts (nowadays even further), the most popular are cinnamon stars (Zimtsterne), Brunsli, and Mailanderli. Rum balls and Swiss truffles are also popular nowadays, especially as gifts.
Making gifts and decorating a tree
The Swiss Christmas guide is never complete without unique gifts. You can either make them or choose some of the best Swiss products and give them to your beloved ones. Every Swiss family is on the one way or another entirely into this ritual. Of course, kids are super ecstatic when this part of Christmas preparation comes to the table. Many families are also in the deep tradition of making their tree decorations. The decoration of the fir tree should be on 24th December. However, kids should not see it until the evening, tradition says. Tree candles are super popular across every part of Switzerland.
Having a fondue
Since there is no traditional Christmas dinner, a choice of many families is the fondue chinoise. They dip thin slices of meat into a pot, instead of cheese, and eat them with vegetables and sauces. However, each part of the country has its own ways of preparation, but it is less critical. The only important thing is that this is a pleasant meal that everyone enjoys.
Celebrating Christmas like Swiss people doesn’t have to involve every single custom, of course. An excelent family atmoshpere is the crucial part of Swiss Christmas guide.