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How Switzerland celebrates Christmas 🎄🎅

Published: 06 December 2020

Every country in the world has its own Christmas traditions. Switzerland with its rich customs culture is no exception. Here I would like to introduce you to how Switzerland celebrates Christmas.

In the following you will find the content of the video also in text form. More entertaining and richer in images is of course the video with English subtitles.

What are your traditions for Christmas? Write it to me in the comments on YouTube. If you liked the video, I would be happy about a Like and a subscription.

Christ Child

In another video we have already talked about the Swiss Röstigraben. In German-speaking countries, one could speak of a Christmas rift. In southern Germany, Austria and most of Switzerland, the Christ Child comes at Christmas. In the western parts of Switzerland, Père Noël comes, in English Father Christmas and in northern Germany Father Christmas comes. According to tradition, the Christ Child brings children Christmas presents without being seen. Originally a Protestant tradition, today the Christ Child is mainly found in Catholic areas.

Did you already know that the Christ Child lives in Switzerland? He even has a Swiss passport and is now retired. The Christkind's name is Willi Würzer and he was head of the Wienacht-Tobel post office for a long time. In Swiss German, Wienacht means as much as Christmas. Because of the place name, some Swiss children have long been sending Christmas letters to the Christ Child in 9405 Wienacht-Tobel. The place is in the canton of Appenzell Ausserrhoden on the border with the canton of St. Gallen. Through the internet the address has spread more and more. Willi Würzer had read and answered all letters for 35 years. The letters came from all over the world, including sender addresses from Japan, Brazil and Germany. At over 80 years of age, however, the Christ Child took a break and went into well-earned retirement. To ensure that all letters to the Christ Child will be answered in the future, Robert Zellweger and his family business took over this important task in 2020.


Samichlaus is known primarily in German-speaking Switzerland and is virtually the visual Swiss counterpart to the Santa Claus. Samichlaus comes home to the children on the evening of 6 December. He is accompanied by a servant. In the German-speaking part of Switzerland it is called "Schmutzli" or also "Butzli". In the French-speaking part of Switzerland it is known as "Père fouettard".

Chlaus societies ensure that the tradition lives on and that as many children as possible get a visit from Samichlaus. Samichlaus carries a book with him, which shows whether the children were well-behaved last year. Samichlaus tells the children how they behaved last year. Afterwards, the children can improve their reputation with Christmas poems or Samichlaus sayings. In return, Samichlaus distributes good advice and small presents to the children. These include mandarins, chocolate, gingerbread and nuts. In some areas there are Klausen marches and Trychler parades at this time. These include the Chlaus-Chlöpfen in Lenzburg and the Klausjagen in Küssnacht am Rigi. However, these events do not always take place on 6 December exactly.

Legend has it that St. Samichlaus goes back to Bishop Nicholas of Myra. St. Nicholas was born towards the end of the 3rd century in Petras Lycia, which lies in what is now Turkey. The parents of Nicholas died very early and left their son with great wealth. Nicholas gave generously of his wealth to the poor. But Nicholas was not a bishop all his life. A legend tells how Nicholas came to be a bishop. After the death of his predecessor, the old bishop of Myra, no successor could be found. The faithful left the choice to chance and decided: "Whoever comes first to the early service tomorrow shall be the new bishop". Nicholas knew nothing about this and was the first to walk through the church portal. After much coaxing, he finally accepted the office and became Bishop of Myra.

Advent windows

Let us now turn to a much more recent custom. The custom of the Advent window has probably only existed since the mid-1980s and has its origins in Aargau. In the meantime, this Swiss custom has conquered other countries, such as Germany, Austria and France. This custom is mainly to be found in German-speaking Switzerland. In French-speaking Switzerland and Ticino there are fewer places that have adopted the idea.

The Advent windows are intended to ensure that people get to know each other and the village and share contemplative moments together. The principle is simple. 24 residents of a village or neighbourhood decorate one of their windows. In contrast to the Advent calendar, the window is not opened in the morning, but is unveiled in the evening at dusk and remains illuminated until around 10 pm. To open the window, residents meet for an aperitif, which is very popular in Switzerland. To be honest, I believe that this custom was only introduced to give another reason for an aperitif. But joking aside. For newcomers, this is a very good opportunity to make friends in the village and get to know the neighbourhood. Each village has developed its own characteristics. The windows usually remain decorated until 6 January and can be discovered during a cold winter walk.

Christmas biscuits

What would Christmas be without the delicious aroma of freshly baked biscuits or "Guetzli" as they are called in Switzerland? As in Germany and Austria, Christmas biscuits are a must at Christmas time in Switzerland. If only because they can be given away very well. During the Advent season, Swiss kitchens are full of kneading, cutting, brushing and baking. Milanese pastries, cinnamon stars, chräbeli, rogues, vanilla horns and death's legs. Hmmm, so delicious. You may also be responsible for the fact that half of Switzerland buys a fitness subscription in January.

Christmas biscuits have played an important role for a very long time, as documents on Christmas customs in Switzerland prove. There are many theories as to why we bake cookies at Christmas time. Some say that at the birth of the Christ Child, monasteries made elaborate baked goods with precious and exotic spices to distribute to the poor at Christmas and New Year. Other theories even shift the origin to antiquity. On the night of the winter solstice from 21 to 22 December, people believed that ghosts haunted their homes. To protect themselves and their animals, animals made of dough were sacrificed at that time. Perhaps this is why there are still many cookie cutters with animal motifs today.

Typical Swiss Christmas dinner

The typical Swiss Christmas dinner does not exist. Every family has its own tradition. Added to this are regional differences and influences from abroad. In many places, you can simply enjoy fondue chinoise, cheese fondue, raclette, Schüfeli or rolled ham. Old traditions are also back in fashion, especially in German-speaking Switzerland, and potato salad and the classic roast are becoming increasingly popular.

There are a few particularly popular regional dishes for the Christmas feast. In the canton of Aargau, these are pasties with milk. In the Canton of Berne, the "Berner Platte" is a popular dish with various meats, dried beans, sauerkraut and potatoes. In French-speaking Switzerland, poultry, especially turkey, is often served. In French-speaking Switzerland, the turkey is considered a symbol of wealth, abundance and community. After all, the whole family can eat from this large bird. The people of Ticino also like poultry. Traditionally the capon, a castrated and fattened rooster served with mustard sauce. From an animal welfare point of view, this is certainly questionable, which is the case with some traditions. As a starter we have tortellini or ravioli in bouillon. For dessert, the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland likes panettone, a light and airy Milanese cake speciality with candied fruit and sultanas. Incidentally, this speciality can also be found in Peru as a typical Christmas cake under the name Panetón.

What are your traditions at Christmas? Write it down in the comments on YouTube. If you liked the video, you can support me with a like and subscription.

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