Switzerland is a country with 4 different cultures. There are German, French and Italian customs followed during the holiday season. 'Christkind' or 'Le petit Jesus' is the bringer of gifts to children in most parts of Switzerland. In German speaking areas, 'Samichlaus' is believed to gift children, mandarins/oranges and nuts. Swiss-Italian children are told that 'Befana' gifted good children sweets and bad children, a lump of coal. Many important customs are followed in Switzerland. A parade on the day of 'Chlausjagen' is held to honor Saint Nicholas and his good deeds. Children get together and create Advent calendars during the period of Advent. A scrumptious feast is prepared on Christmas Eve, which is shared among family members and friends. Christmas trees are usually decorated by adults and the children are tricked into believing that the trees are decorated by Christkind. The most amazing part of Christmas celebrations in Switzerland is that, one can listen to Christmas carols in many languages! Scroll further to learn more about the Christmas celebrations in Switzerland.
Customs, Traditions & Celebrations
Swiss traditions during Christmas are different when compared to other countries. They follow multifarious customs, as there is a diverse group of Italian, German and French populations in Switzerland. For this reason, Christmas traditions in Switzerland incorporate practices of 4 different nations. Children would receive gifts on Christmas Eve or New Year's Day, along with these gifts being brought by 'Christkind' or St. Nicholas. Christmas carols are heard in 4 different languages during Christmas, amplifying the celebratory quotient.
Christmas is celebrated on the 25th of December and the Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Eve. Children fashion Advent calendars during this time. These calendars have 24 flaps and when these flaps were lifted, it would reveal the Christmas scene. During the period of the Advent or the 'waiting' period, Swiss people carry out shopping errands for Christmas tree curios and spend most of their time learning Christmas songs and hymns to sing and recite on Christmas.
'The feast of Saint Nicholas' or the 'Chlausjagen' is celebrated on the 6th of December. Processions on the shores of Lake Lucerne form a part of the Christmas traditions in Switzerland, where people wear large Bishop's hats with a candle lit inside it. People do this to honor St. Nicholas. This procession is known as 'lifeltrager'. Bishop's hats are traditional headpieces that are 3 feet to 6 feet tall and are made of cardboards, glass and lace. This parade is known as the 'Kussnacht'. Sounds from the clang of heavy bells, the rhythms of brass bands and horns can be heard during the procession.
Christmas Eve Traditions
On Christmas Eve, a grand feast is prepared and is shared among family and friends. The key desserts include 'Mailaenderli', 'Zimsterne' and 'Spitzbuben'. After dinner, the family gathers around the Christmas tree to sing songs that are associated with the festival of Christmas. Passages relating to the birth of Jesus Christ from the Holy Bible are read aloud for the children while they exchange gifts and unpack them. Most Swiss families also attend 'Midnight Mass' at church, after which, the families return to their homes to drink hot chocolate and share large, homemade doughnuts known as 'ringli' with kin.
Christmas trees are decked beautifully by the adults on the Eve of Christmas and houses are decorated with electric lights, stockings and candles to reflect the theme of Christmas. A creche with small figures is placed under the Christmas tree to exhibit the Nativity Scene.
Christmas Gift-Bringers In Switzerland
Switzerland follows several Christmas customs that are inspired by German, French and Italian traditions. Read on to know more about Christmas celebrations in Switzerland.
Christmas In Switzerland
- Santa Claus does not have much of a role to play in Swiss Christmas celebrations, except for ‘Chlausjagen’, which falls on the 6th of December.
- Swiss-French Children believe that ‘Christkind’ or ‘Le petit Jésus’, brings gifts to them during Christmas. Christkind is believed to look like an angel with wings, fully bedecked in white signifying the purity of Jesus Christ. The children also believe that Christkind was the guiding star of Bethlehem.
- In Swiss-German areas, Santa Claus or ‘Samichlaus’ is believed to leave mandarin oranges, nuts and cookies in the shoes of children. He is often accompanied by ‘Schmtzli’, his dark, alter-ego assistant.
- Befana is another Christmas character who brings gifts for Swiss-Italian children. Children hang stockings in the hope that Befana would leave sweets inside them.
Christmas is celebrated beautifully in Switzerland on the 25th of December every year. Switzerland does not have one particular way of celebrating Christmas, as it is a country with a potpourri of four different cultures. Befana, Christkind, Samichlaus and Le petit Jesus are believed to be the different gift-bringers for children, during the Christmas season.