Samichlaus - The Swiss Way

As an expat in Zurich I’m often left wondering when the Swiss do ‘this and that’ and never more so than at Christmas time. This year I decided it was time to get some answers (well I didn’t really but it sounds good for the story). So the hunt for more information started after a simple question from my sister ‘When does Santa come to Swiss kids’ and my response ‘No idea’.

My next problem was I really have no Swiss friends and to get factually correct answers to these types of questions you need Swiss friends. This seems to be a regular problem in my life which I put partly down to living, working and sleeping all in the same location. Literally. Later that day I was at the physio, he’s a nice guy, very chatty and speaks good English so I thought ‘here is my chance’. We’ll call him Fredrik. Fredrik explained to me that Samichlaus comes on the 6th December (well sh!t we missed that deadline). He also told me a lot of other facts which I have now forgotten.

So I get on the phone to my sister today and tell her about my new found wisdom and what does she decided to do.... GOOGLE IT. What a good idea. So here is the article.

Samichlaus, the Swiss Santa

Unlike in the United States or other places around the globe, Santa Claus (who is based on the historic figure of Saint Nicholas) visits Switzerland not on 24 December but on 6 December. He does not bring gifts – we get those on 24 December like everyone else – but a huge bag filled with chocolates, peanuts and mandarins for everyone to share.

Let me explain how the Santa tradition in Switzerland works. In the evening of 6 December, the Samichlaus (or Santa Claus) visits every family with his helper Schmutzli, who is usually dressed in all-black clothes with a blackened face. Unlike in other countries, Santa knocks on the door and is invited in. (Maybe Swiss chimneys are simply too narrow for him to climb down?) Sometimes, Santa even has a donkey with him that carries his bag.

Once inside, he orders his helper to put down the big bag with the treats and open it. He then calls everyone forward one by one and gives them a report on how they behaved in the last year. He’ll sing them praises and sometimes mention areas for improvement. After receiving their report, every child can try to improve their standing with Santa by reciting a Christmas or Santa-related poem. A good report and a good poem will get a child a big handful of treats while a bad report and no poem is said to endanger you of receiving blows from Santa’s helper or being stuck into Santa’s bag and carried off with him. Promises to do better next year are said to save children from this fate.

Santa also gives a yearly report about adults including parents but usually in a comedic fashion not to be taken too seriously.

To read the full article on Expatica click here.

Now I thought is was impossible for Santa to get down all the chimneys in one night, this dude has got it way harder, he has to interview the children and then the parents as well. I guess Switzerland is small though. 

On a plus, it’s a reasonably cheap exercise which is a real bonus in this insanely expensive city/country.