Tag Archives: Father Christmas

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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3 Things… Christmas Edition

20 Dec

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I stole this idea from Bev, so I can’t take credit for the concept but the contents are all mine. As Christmas is lurking around the corner, it seemed like a good idea to answer some questions all about Christmas…

3 Things I love about Christmas

  1. I’m not going to lie: the best thing about Christmas for an adult is not having to work or not having to work as much. Although I will be working between Christmas and New Year, I will have a lot less to do and won’t be under as much stress as the rest of the year. I sometimes find it a lot easier to get things done that I have been putting off for the end of the year and I can get myself ready for January, which, working in Finance, is always a busy time.
  2. Being able to stay inside without having to feel that you have to make an excuse to justify it. The weather is cold. It might be raining or snowing. This is the one time of the year when I can stay indoors and no one tells me that I should be outside and getting some fresh air. It’s nice and cosy inside and I like the feeling of know that I can lounge about and not feel guilty for not exercising for a few days of the year.
  3. Christmassy smells. Clementines, cinnamon, real Chrismtas trees, mulled wine. Nothing smells as good as Christmas.

3 Things I dislike about Christmas

  1. Asking someone what they would like for Christmas and them shrugging their shoulders and saying “Dunno. I don’t really want/need anything”. In fairness, I say this as well but it can add some pressure when you have no idea what to give someone and they also have no idea. I guess it means that you have no expectations to live up to but you can still end up disappointing someone.
  2. Commercialism. This was summed up for me about 2 weeks ago on Bahnhofstrasse in Zurich. I am not talking about the Chanel, Louis Vitton and Rolex shops with their overpriced¬† wares in the shop window (but they are overpriced and completely unjustifiable to any normal people, not just at Christmas but throughout the year). There is a sign on the street that changes every day. It’s 5 letters long and a different word appears each day. Two weeks ago, it simply send “SPEND”. I wanted to think that this was a tongue-in-cheek assessment of the time of year but I doubt that very much. To me, it was a declaration of what companies and businesses want consumers to do in the run up to Christmas.
  3. Having to feel happy. Christmas is not a happy time for everyone and it can bring sadness with it. An empty chair at the dinner table is a stark reminder of someone who is no longer here to share in the memories or a phone call never made to someone who we love but, for one reason or another, we are no longer talking to are two examples of occasions which can cause us to reflect and bring us sadness. We focus so much on what we want that it can make us focus on what we have lost and are unable to regain.

3 Favourite Christmas Movies

  1. Home Alone. The ultimate and the best.
  2. Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Steve Martin in his prime and a hilarious John Candy. Just thinking about this films makes me feel emotional.
  3. Love Actually. I think I have cried from the beginning, when Hugh Grant talks about love in airports all the way through to the end, when Bill Nighy is baring his backside because his song was Christmas Number 1.

3 Favourite Christmas Treats

  1. A warmed mince pie smoothered with brandy butter.
  2. Cheese board. My mum always buys a cheeseboard, although she says that she never knows why because no one ever eats it all. And it is always the same cheese that is left to the very end in our household. Wendsleydale with Cranberries always goes first and then the Red Leicester. But there is nothing as decadent as going to raid the fridge during the Christmas period and sitting down to watch a film with a selection of cheeses, pickled onions and a few crackers.
  3. An alcoholic drink that I never normally drinking during the rest of the year. Perhaps it will be a Bailey’s this year, or a Brandy or something completely different that has been lurking in the back of my mum’s cupboard all year.

3 Favourite Christmas Traditions

  1. Eating and drinking so much that I fall in front of the TV while watching a film. This happens every year. I normally wake up when someone decides to change the channel and I tell them not to because I was watching it!
  2. Having a buffet dinner on Christmas Eve night. Normally my mum put on a big spread with crisps, sandwiches, dips and party food. Just what you need before going to bed to wait for the Big Man to arrive on the next day.
  3. Leaving a mince pies out for Santa and a carrot for Rudolph. We always left something out and I was a bit sad when I grew up and I couldn’t do this any more. Now my niece and nephew are a bit older, the tradition is back up and running. I’m really looking forward to leaving the treats out for Santa and I might be fighting my brother for the dram of whisky that we leave out for him.

3 Favourite Christmas Songs

These are in no particular order…

  1. Mary’s Boy Child – Boney M
  2. The FairyTale of New York – The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl. This reminds me of the Christmas we spent in Tenerife, when my and my brother (both quiet inebriated) sang this at karaoke and brought the house down – at least that was my recollection.
  3. Last Christmas – Wham. I always loved this song, now it makes me a bit sad because George Michael died on Christmas Day but I still love it.

3 Favourite Gifts Received

  1. My mountain bike – I can’t remember how old I was but I really want a mountain bike. I came downstairs very confident that I would see my bike because I had been such a good girl that year. When I didn’t see it, I burst into tears. The bike was actually in the garage because my parents hadn’t wanted to bring it into the house. I knew I had been a good girl all along.
  2. My CD player and Gladiators CD – again I have no idea how old I was but I was thrilled to get my CD player. The added bonus was the Gladiators CD that I found in the bottom of my stocking. If you don’t know what Gladiators was, it was THE best programme on Saturday night and was on after Baywatch and before Blind Date, I think. I always had ambitious to go on that show. Alas, it was cancelled well before I was eligible to go on the show.
  3. My cash till. I played for hours and hours, and I mean hours and hours, with that till. I used to get my mum’s shopping out and till everything up. This was when barcodes weren’t widely used and the sticker was on the tin or packet. I also made cheque books and credit cards and I used to make my brother pretend to be customers. No wonder I ended up working in Finance. I have loved money for a long time.

3 Gifts I want to give the World

  1. Understanding. I think, if people were able to understand other people’s cultures, lives and motivations that the world would be a better place to live it. Often people are misunderstood or people have no intention of understand and learning about other people and their cultures. Also understanding of our effect on other’s and the planet is something that I would gift, if I could. Although we think that we are so advanced in our understanding today, it many areas, I feel that we understand very little.
  2. An appreciate of Health. Although health care and medical breakthroughs seem to be on the rise, lots of people forget that without your health you have nothing. How many people are stress out and not able to enjoy life? How many people give their own health second priority? Without our health and access to health care, we wouldn’t be here and that is a very limiting factor if we want to achieve things.
  3. Fun. Far to often, the fun of life is weaned away from us. As we grow up, we are programmed to have less fun. Children today have fun snatched away from them too soon in their childhood. I blame Health and Safety mostly. Life should be fun because we are only here once. We might as well have fun while we are here.