Christmas traditions

23 Dec

This year I am flying back to the UK for Christmas. I have a feeling I will be missing out on a White Christmas in Switzerland but last year I missed out on a lot of traditions that we have in the UK.

There are quite a lot of differences between UK and Swiss traditions. Firstly, Santa Claus (or Samichlaus) doesn’t come to Switzerland on Christmas Eve. He arrives on 6th December and he doesn’t bring presents. He brings cookies and sweets to children who have been good and behaved themselves. For naughty children, there is a character called Smutzli (literally, “little dirty one”), who is dressed like Samichlaus but in black instead of red. He finds the naughty children and carries them off to the woods and beats them with a stick and they get given a piece of coal instead of sweets. No wonder Swiss children are so well behaved! I don’t think the six-year-old me would have said boo to a goose, if I was threatened with corporal punishment instead of sweet treats.

The Swiss, and most other Europeans, have their presents delivered by Christkind (literally, “Christ child”). He normally arrives so that presents can be opened on 24th December. Why the person who delivers presents is called Christ child is anyone’s guess but it seems to have something to do with the baby Jesus giving the gifts. What I don’t understand is that Christmas is Jesus’s birthday, so why is he giving gifts to everyone? I don’t hand out vouchers for Amazon and Boots to my friends when it is my birthday. Shouldn’t it be the other way around? And, if Christians are right and he was born to absolve us of our sins, then hasn’t he given us enough anyway?

In the UK, our traditions are just a great big mash up of these traditions. Santa Claus, which must be a corruption of Samichlaus, Father Christmas and Saint Nicholas (who’s Saint day is 6th December) are all the same person to us. I remember being told that if I wasn’t good that I would get a piece of coal and no presents. I used to think that Santa must be very forgiving or completely senile because I never once found even the slightest trace of coal in my stocking on Christmas Day.

My first Swiss Christmas was great because of the whole variety of food that we had: Cheese Fondue with lashings of garlic on Christmas Eve, Mongolian Topf for Christmas Dinner and Fondue Chinoise for Boxing Day.

I know that this year I will most likely be eating the same meat (in our house normally beef or lamb) for the next 3 days in sandwiches, cold meat platters, curries etc. But that’s ok because I am so looking forward to a lovely Christmas lunch. Christmas lunch is basically a Sunday Roast on a more epic scale. I can’t remember the last time I had a Sunday Roast. I am getting hungry just thinking about it.

But even if the Roast is burnt and the Brussel sprouts have been boiled within an inch of their life and I don’t get any Christmas presents because Santa has realised that I was actually very naughty in the summer of 1987, none of that really matters. What matters is the people sat round the table, the laughter that echoes around the house and the memories that we make together.

A Very Merry Christmas to you and yours.

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4 Responses to “Christmas traditions”

  1. Confuzzled Bev December 27, 2017 at 1:30 pm #

    I don’t know about Zurich but it was about 8 degrees in Basel on Christmas Day… certainly no hint of a white Christmas!

    In Germany, most people seem to think the Christkind is some kind of angel type character separate from the actual baby Jesus, despite the fact that it’s name is literally “Christ child”! Jan’s family had “der Weihnachtsmann” though, who is again a separate character to der Nikolaus (although presumably a corruption of the same saint?). Der Nikolaus comes on the 6th and der Weihnachtsmann comes on the 24th The Christkind tends to be more in Catholic areas in Germany.

    • ourgirlinzurich December 28, 2017 at 7:12 am #

      That’s interesting because my boyfriend says the Weihnachtsmann and Saint Nikolaus are the same character! Very confusing stuff!

      • Confuzzled Bev December 28, 2017 at 1:11 pm #

        But they come on different days?? Anyway, from pictures I’ve seen the Weihnachtsmann looks exactly like Santa/Father Christmas whereas Nikolaus carries a bischops staff!

      • ourgirlinzurich December 29, 2017 at 7:53 am #

        Like I say, I’m confused!

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