Christmas in Switzerland
The Swiss Christmas season is full of exciting get togethers! There may be concerts, parades, church services, bonfires and carol sings.
Though the protestants decorate modestly, there is a tradition of decorating windows for Advent. With the debut of a new Advent window often there will be an actual party. Almost like a progressive dinner, neighbors get out, meet friends, admire the window decorations, and enjoy grilled sausages, hot mulled wine, and accordion folk music.
Close to Christmas, Swiss children welcome a visit from Samichlaus (Santa) and his black-clad henchman, Schmutzli. He could arrive anytime between December 6 and Christmas day to reprimand the children for their sins or reward their good actions by allowing the children to reach into his deep bag for handfuls of tangerines, nuts, gingerbread, and other goodies. Gifts are generally exchanged between family members on the 24th.
Families also have a tradition of hiking into the snowy forest to cut a tree to decorate on the 24th of December. The tree will often be lit with real candles kept upright by dangling ornamental counter-balances. The trees will stay up until January 2 because the candles must be lit again at New Years for good luck.
Mulled wine or cider is the customary holiday drink in this cold country, and cheese fondu is a traditional specialty only eaten by natives in winter months. Tradition says that fondu creates a good cozy mood and that if you drop your bread in the fondu you must kiss the person on your left.
Traditionally, a Swiss Christmas dinner will include scalloped potatoes with melted cheese and milk baked into it, boiled ham, walnut cake, and specially-decorated gingerbread or Christmas cookies.
The Christmas Story
Switzerland is a mixture of Catholic and Protestant religion. Many families will have a Bible that's been in the family for generations. The Swiss and German equivalent of the St. James edition is their Martin Luther edition. The oldest man in the family may read the Christmas story from the treasured family Bible during the Christmas Eve festivities, reminding all of the reason for the season.
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