Christmas Traditions in Switzerland
Switzerland is one of the few countries that focus on religion more firmly than the fantastical during the season. That is to say that Santa Clause, or Saint Nicholas, plays a very small role in the traditions of this region. Sankt Nikolus, a Christian bishop who was considered the protector of children, appears on December 6th which is his saint day. Called Samichlaus he visits school and homes to dole out sweets to the good children and give advice to the not so good children. Other than that the rest of the holiday is centered on the religious connotations of the holiday.
Christkindi, or Christ Child, is a beautiful cherub with wings, dressed in white with a glowing crown and magical wand. Christkindi not only brings the presents on Christmas Eve but the tree as well. Which is why it’s usually the older children who see the tree before the actual day since they assist the parents in decorating it. At the bottom of the trees, there’s usually a depiction of the manger in Bethlehem. During Advent, the waiting period of December, a candle is lit every Sunday until Christmas Eve. Much like in the U.S the weeks leading up to Christmas are filled with hectic activity. And on Christmas Eve an early dinner is eaten and the whole family gathers around the Christmas tree to sing songs or hymns, and sometimes to read passages from the bible.
At midnight everyone who hasn’t fallen asleep attends midnight mass. Christmas day, January 1st, or January 6th (or Epiphany, which is when the three Magi were said to have visited Christ as a child) are days in which presents can be exchanged.