(Photograph copyright by Rick Steves)
As we found out this weekend, Swiss Santa is not exactly a jolly good fellow like his American counterpart. He is not mean spirited either, but his job description differs quite a bit! We attended the annual Santa Parade in Zürich to find out more.
Every year on December 6, kids in Switzerland better not be procrastinating because this is the traditional Santa Day. On this day, "Samichlaus" (as he is called in Swiss German) and his companion "Schmutzli" emerge from their cottage in the woods to visit children at their homes. They do not fly on a reindeer-pulled sleigh, either, but rather shuffle through the snow with a donkey.
Kids are expected to rehearse a poem and make a promise to better themselves for the upcoming year. These days, whether they have been naughty or nice, children are left with a bag full of walnuts, peanuts, chocolates, tangerines and ginger breads...
So not a bad deal if you have studied up!
But in decades past, you were actually trapped in Schmutzli's bag and literally kidnapped! That is why, generally speaking, the Swiss are well behaved.
Peanuts is essentially all you are going to get from Swiss Santa though (I speak from experience). He is not one to climb down a chimney either to leave presents under the tree on Christmas Morning. This task has been outsourced to Christkind...
This Samichlaus was checking on a kid to see how the rehearsing is going, although there were several days left before Samichlaus Day:
Here is a traditional Samichlaus/Schmutzli combo on Bahnhofstrasse, or as I like to call them: Good Cop and Bad Cop!
This Samichlaus found a liking in Mamiko's American attire, but I do not exactly understand the significance of Schmutzli's geeky pair of Harry Potter glasses... I guess this is what they call "pop culture"!
These little Schmutzli tots were too adorable to miss in the parade!
We were very happy to find a group of American Santas who drove their Harley's down from the North Pole. And this despite the high gas prices!
BONUS: Find out more about Swiss Samichlaus and Schmutzli in this video:
Do you have any questions about Samichlaus and Schmutzli? I would be happy to go and interview them for Newly Swissed!
Dimitri loves discovering new trends and covers architecture, design, start-ups and tourism.
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