There is a slight variation in the Christmas celebrations in Switzerland as compared to the festive customs and traditions of other countries like America and the Western European countries. This is because Switzerland comprises of four different linguistic provinces including French, German, Italian and Roman, and each group has a major influence on how Christmas is celebrated. The celebration starts at Advent, which is the fourth Sunday before Christmas Eve. In early 19th century, parents taught children how to wait patiently if they want to get a lovely gift. It is said that, later, the Advent Calendar was made for this purpose; this calendar has 24 small flaps opening with pictures of a Christmas scene. From that time onwards, these calendars have become a very important part of Swiss Christmas belief along with the Advent chaplet which contains four candles, each being lit on subsequent Sundays. Read the article to know more about the customs and traditions associated with Christmas celebrations in Switzerland.
Swiss Christmas Customs
In Switzerland, the Christmas feast, known as Christmas Eve Event, is held on 24th December. On this occasion, people treat themselves to an opulent, scrumptious and delicious dinner. After the dinner, they sing songs and hymns, dance around the Christmas tree and exchange gifts. Some also recite the chapters of the Holy Bible related to the birth of Jesus Christ. Along with this, most Swiss families go to church to attend Midnight Mass and, once the service is over, share hot chocolate and special homemade doughnuts known as 'ringli'.
Christmas Traditions In Switzerland
The merriment and jubilation of Christmas start, with the 'Pursuit of Saint Nicholas', in Klausjagen in Switzerland. On 5th December, the commemoration begins in the village of Kussnacht, situated near Lake Lucerne, in which people wear large bishops' hat, which is about six feet tall made of cardboard and decorated with lace designs. Along with this, heavy bells are carried by men, which are rang all the way and also horns and brass bands are used which adds\ more joy to the festival. At the starting of the commemoration, there are whip crackers who declares the beginning of procession with the cracking of the whips.
'Christkind' or 'Le petit Jesus', represents a child Christ who is dressed in white apparel, is adorned with angel-like wings and is bejeweled with a magnificent crown holding a magical stick. According to ancient belief, it is said that this small boy signifies infant Jesus Christ. Moreover, people tell small children that the 'Christkind' brings gifts and the Christmas tree for them on the eve of Christmas, not the Santa Claus. The kids are not allowed to see the Christmas tree before the celebration. In front of the beautified Christmas tree, a creche made of wood or ceramic, with shepherds, sheep, angels, a cow, a donkey and the three Magi is placed. It symbolizes the birth of Jesus in a manger at Bethlehem.
In the central cantons, Santa Claus plays a very small role. In the Swiss German part of the country, he is famous as 'Samichlaus', who keeps mandarin oranges, cookies, nuts and other gifts in shoes or stockings. Samichlaus comes along with Schmutzli, a dark-clad assistant who carries a bag full of gifts. Also, in some parts of the country, a woman called Befana plays the role of Santa Claus including the Italian-speaking southern canton of Ticino and Chauche-vieille and the French-speaking Western Switzerland. On the eve of 5th and 6th December, children hang up stockings to get lovely gifts.
Read about Christmas and its traditions in Switzerland and Swiss Christmas customs.