January 6th’s traditions

The Christmas time is traditionally finishing with the celebrations of January 6th.
In some countries this day is even a public and religious holiday.
The Christian church celebrates the arrival of the three kings to see and adore the newborn Jesus.
Coming from Italy and living in Switzerland, I (and especially the kids) can “celebrate” in two different ways, following different popular customs.

The Italian tradition says that in the night of January 6th an old woman, a kind of witch (called in Italian “Befana”) comes and brings sweets to the good children and coal to the bad ones. In order to get these presents, the kids have to hang an empty sock in the living room, which this old woman eventually fills in overnight…
This year the children got a lot of chocolates from “Befana”. And I can finally say that they deserved them!

The Swiss tradition (Unfortunately in our Canton, Argovia, January 6th is not a public holiday) celebrates this day by eating the so-called three king sweet bread.
All the main supermarkets sell it… or you should even bake it at home, if you can. The bread is sold in a package with a golden crown… Inside one of the pieces of this bread a very small figurine (2-3 cm) of one of the three kings is carefully hidden. The person who finds this miniaturised king (if he or she does not break the teeth) can happily wear the golden crown!
This year I was the lucky one! I was almost swallowing the small king, but I fortunately realised that it would have been better to save it from an inglorious and pathless travel into my bowel!

Samichlaus and the Schmutzli


Even if 2015 is already archived and overtaken by its younger colleague 2016, I still have some posts about last year…Please forgive me for my slight delay.

One of the most typical “events” in Switzerland during the period before Christmas!
The arrival of Samichlaus (Swiss German for Nikolaus) with his two faithful Schmutzli (“dirties”), to celebrate St. Nikolaus on the 6th December.

Almost every small village, city or part of organised civilisation in Switzerland has its own “Samichlaus with Schmutzli” event.

The origins of this celebration are not so clear and are to be found many many centuries ago.
Basically, on the 6th December, Samichlaus, dressed more like a bishop than a Santa Claus, arrives with a big sack full of small sweets, chocolates, mandarins and peanuts for the joy of all children. He is always accompanied by two “Schmutzli”, characters wearing brown tunics and having faces covered with black dirty spots.
So this year, organised by the kindergarten, we were in the wood, in the evening, with the kids, with some fires to be able to see something and suddenly Samichlaus and its crew arrived and distributed his “sweet” presents in small bags to each kid.

It was really a delightful event…
…apart from the quite boring (and sometimes seeming endless in the coldness of the evening) speech delivered by Samichlaus before handing over his presents!

Of course: the speech was entirely delivered in the most possible strict Swiss German dialect!