Swiss Christmas traditions - santa

Christmas in Switzerland: Swiss Christmas traditions

Swiss Christmas traditions - SamichlausIs it true that Santa lives in Switzerland?

Probably many of us, when we were kids, went through the bubble burst when another “witty” kid told us that Santa didn’t exist! 😞😡

For some this bitter news marked the transition from the magic dreamy children’s world to adult’s tough & rough reality!🤓

Years after and I haven’t yet overcame this trauma till I learned that Santa exists in Switzerland 🇨🇭 🎅 🥳

Actually, in a tiny 450-people village called Wienacht, high above lake Constance, which is usually so dreamy and quiet, and becomes active for the period of Christmas. This is where Willi Würzer receives hundreds of letters every year from children all over the world sent “to Santa Claus, 9405 – Wienacht”.

Willi Würzel had been working at the post office of Wienacht-Tobel, the full name of the village. Because of the village name (Wienacht means Christmas in Swiss German) kids from around Switzerland were sending letters to Santa to this address. Thanks to the internet, the word spread and children from different countries such as Brazil, Germany and even as far as Japan, send Santa Claus countless letters every year. Rest assured, Swiss Santa Claus is reading every letter and is responding to every child 🤗.

Although it is on December 24 that children and grown-ups receive Christmas gifts in Switzerland, but Santa Claus makes his appearance earlier according to Swiss Christmas traditions! Actually Samichlaus (or Père Noël) comes on the 6th of December. Unlike other countries, Swiss Santa Claus comes with his helper- Schmutzli- dressed in black- and sometimes accompanied with a donkey to carry a heavy bag full….of chocolates, peanuts and mandarines!

On 6th of December, Samichlaus rings the bell of the house (probably Santa is worried about dirtying his costume if he passes through the chimney 😁 ) and Schmutzli takes a big bag of treats inside. Santa Claus addresses every child and reports whether they behaved well or were naughty. Kids can recite a poem about Santa Claus to get a better “grade” from him. Children try to do their best, as it means either they can get a handful of tasty treats from the bag or they will get some scolding from Schmutzli or even will be carried away in that bag 😱!

So who then brings Christmas presents in Switzerland?

Swiss Christmas traditions - giftsDepending on where you live and the religion, it is either Christkindli (literally “Christ Child”) in mostly Protestant German-speaking part of Switzerland, or it is Père Noël or the Weihnachtsmann, a close relation of Santa Claus, in Catholic Western part of Switzerland.

To keep this Swiss Christmas tradition, on Christmas Eve parents discreetly ring the bell to announce the arrival of Christkindli and take children to the bedroom. When they get back to the living room, Christkindli is gone and all the gifts are delivered under the Christmas tree 🎄 waiting for the children 🎁 💝

When can we start the countdown?

Swiss Christmas traditions - Advent calendarAdvent calendars are an old and wide spread tradition in Switzerland because they help counting days till Christmas. How? Well an Advent calendar has 24 small numbered openings or boxes behind each a gift. One  gift is opened every day starting from December 1 till the 24. It is a lot of fun to prepare an Advent Calendar with sweets and small treats for your close family. But also you can buy a ready made Advent Calendar or just the structure and fill it with your own gifts!

What are those nicely decorated windows during Christmas ?

Another distinctive Swiss Christmas tradition is Advent windows or (Adventsfenster). This tradition is still kept alive in villages and smaller towns and used as another way to countdown Christmas. It is quite fascinating how it is organised. In a village 24 people (families, schools, even local businesses) are selected, and they decorate one of their window(s) in a holiday theme. Designs vary from animals to angels and from shapes to colors. People use transparent papers that can nicely pass through the light from inside. Every night between December 1 and 24 a window opens its shutters to reveal the decoration. It stays open till December 25th at least, to entertain the neighbourhood. People use this as a socializing occasion and invite their neighbors for a drink and homemade finger food 🏠

How can we decorate à la Suisse?

Advent wreath (Adventskranz)

Christmas in Switzerland - Swiss Christmas traiditionsA traditional Swiss Christmas decoration is the Adventskranz or Advent wreath. It’s also an alternative way for countdown 🤨. An Adventskranz consists of a decorated circular wreath made of fir branches, having four candles attached to it. While Advent Christmas calendars countdown the days until Christmas starting from 1 of December, Adventskranz counts the last four weeks before Christmas Eve. One lits the first candle on the wreath on the Sunday four weeks before Christmas Eve, and then continues every Sunday with a candle lit until all the 4 candles are lit.

Räbeliechtli

Another fascinating Swiss Christmas tradition is Räbeliechtli. Children with the help of their teachers and parents carve out lanterns (Räbeliechtli) from turnip. Then from the end of November, they organise parades with the lanterns in hand, singing through small towns and villages.

This Christmas holidays might be different than the previous ones you have had before. Nothing matches being within family and beloved ones. So if you are staying in Switzerland for the holidays why not make it a special one and enjoy it the Swiss way? 🎄

Hope Santa will be generous with you this year and offers you plenty of gifts 🎁  If you are looking for Swiss Christmas gifts ideas, here’s our article with some authentic ideas.

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