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Getting ready for Christmas in Switzerland

The first Sunday of the advent season has already passed and tomorrow those of us lucky enough to have a Christmas calendar will start opening it's doors or gifts. Christmas decorations have been up for weeks and Christmas songs are playing everywhere. It's time for celebrating the birth of Christ.

Swiss Christmas Traditions

Every country and region has their unique Christmas traditions and customs. In Peru, where I currently live, children are invited to a chocolatada in the week before Christmas eve. There they play games, sing songs, eat pannettone and drink hot chocolate. Hence the name 'chocolatada'. It's a loud and fun event that contrast quite strongly to the more pensive and meditative Christmas events I remember from my childhood in Switzerland. I don't know which I like better - they are different but both nice!

So, what traditions for the holiday season do we have in Switzerland? Here are some I've written about in more detail before:
  • Candle dipping: You pay for making your own candle. Basically, you receive a wick which you then dip into hot wax again and again (with cooling rounds of course) until you reach the desired thickness. 
  • Turnip Lanterns: This is an activity for children. They carve lanterns from turnips and then walk together through the streets singing Christmas carols.
  • Singing Christmas songs: The classic songs in (Swiss )German are mostly pensive and somber sounding even when the lyrics are actually joyous! One Swiss musician is writing more relatable songs in Swiss German and has quite a few popular Christmas songs.
  • Swiss Santa: He shows up on December 6th and distributes chocolates, peanuts and mandarines to the children. Swiss Santa doesn't hand out gifts!
  • Poems for Swiss Santa: Children in Switzerland recite poems for Santa in order to receive treats from his giant bag.
  • Christmas Calendars: 24 pockets or pictures - one is opened each day in December to mark the days until Christmas evening.
  • Advent Windows: Like a giant Christmas Calendar, people decorate their windows and one is opened (or revealed) each day from December 1st to 24th.
  • Advent Wreaths: A beautiful decoration made of fir needles and four candles. We light one candle each of the for Sundays before Christmas eve.

Swiss Christmas Foods

Every holiday is accompanied by it's traditional foods. In Switzerland, typical Christmas foods are usually very high in calories and sugar. There are dozens of different types of Christmas cookies and they certainly can't be missing at any Christmas meal! Other favourites include a 'fondue chinoise' as a main course on Christmas eve and a cup of hot glow wine during your visit to a Christmas market.

Here are a few of the most typical and popular Christmas foods in Switzerland:
  • Glow Wine: A hot spicy wine with cinnamon and cloves
  • Pannettone: Typical Italian Christmas sweet bread
  • Grittibänz: We bake a bread shaped like a person, usually somewhat similar to a Santa. It's basically  Zopf recipe but a bit sweeter and with raisins and decorating sugar on top.
  • Gingerbread House: Swiss gingerbread has different spices than the one baked in English speaking countries. It includes cinnamon, cloves and others. You can buy the spice mixture ready in every supermarket!
  • Christmas Cookies: There is a favorite cookie for everyone. Plain butter cookies, nutty or chocolaty ones, Anise flavored, very dry and hard ones or soft and chewy. So good!

Swiss Christmas Activities

Since Switzerland is located in the northern hemisphere, the Christmas season falls into winter. Although this doesn't always mean a white snowy Christmas, it definitely makes most winter indoor and outdoor activities potential Christmas activity candidates. For specific Christmas activities - some of them doable all over the world - check out these 10 Fun Swiss Christmas Activities

Merry Christmas everyone!



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