Winter in Switzerland immediately brings to mind white snowy mountain landscapes, wooden chalets and chocolate. Making us dream, Esther kindly agreed to tell us more about the country's traditions and the way her family celebrates Christmas.
And as an early gift, she will also share about December celebrations in Korea! Fasten your seatbelt and get ready to travel!
CHRISTMAS IN SWITZERLAND
A quick introduction before letting our guest speak :
Mum of two amazing children, Chloe and Silas, Esther was born and raised in Switzerland but has Korean origins on her mother's side. Having lived in 5 different countries, she recently moved back to Switzerland. The last time she celebrated Christmas with her Swiss family was 5 years ago so this December will be quite special. She is looking forward to it with eagerness and knows it will bring back happy childhood souvenirs.
Christmas is definitely the most celebrated holiday in Switzerland. From mid-November on, trees will be all lit up, there will be Christmas markets, hot chestnuts and Gluewine (our hot spice wine) for sale everywhere in the streets.
In our family, we have been celebrating Christmas exactly the same way as my own father did, we like to keep traditions alive!
December the 6th
On December the 6th, ‘Samichlaus’, our Swiss Santa, visits our house with his big golden book in which is written all the things we did well and didn’t do well over the year. Each child is called forward, praised and corrected, asked to recite a poem learnt by heart and then receives a little gift.
To be honest, I always found it a bit scary growing up and always held my breath until the moment when he would spill out his big brown bag filled with lots of nuts, mandarins, chocolates and gingerbreads on to a cloth on the floor. The best part was when we all sat down to eat the pile of treats.
December the 24th
We celebrate Christmas on the 24th. We usually get our tree a couple of days before only. Our family always uses a real Christmas tree and decorates it with real candles that are hung and lit on Christmas Eve. We always place a star right at the top. Most Swiss people still do it like this but it’s slowly changing.
For dinner, we usually have Fondue or Fondue Chinoise which are both very traditional Swiss Christmas dishes. It is basically melted cheese heated on a portable stove and eaten straight from the pan by dipping bits of bread in it.
Before supper, we all gather around the tree, read the Christmas story together and sing carols. Then comes children's favorite part, time, the gift opening and playing with new toys. In Switzerland we say that Christ-child brings the presents, instead of Santa.
For the New Year, our family always goes to our cottage in the Alps.
My dad has gone to this same small village since he was a child. As a little boy, he learned to ski there, carrying his wooden skies up the hill.
My dad and his siblings
Luckily there are lifts now! Yet we have one special family tradition we particularly enjoy doing by foot. We love walking up in the dark mountain on a starry night to reach a special Fondue restaurant. It feels so nice to reach the warm cozy wooden chalet and eat some delicious fondue with pickles and cured meat. At the end of the meal, we take traditional wooden horn sleds to sledge down the mountain, which is the icing on the cake for the night.
I hope you enjoyed reading about Swiss Christmas traditions. Here is one of our favorite cookie recipe if you would like to get a small taste of Swiss culture. It's a perfect indoor family activity for rainy days!
The Cinnamon Stars (It says that the recipe is German but it is very popular in Switzerland, as you know we have a lot in common with Germany). You can keep the star shape or innovate! We love to make little angels too!
A LITTLE WORD ON KOREAN TRADITIONS
My daughter in her traditional Korean outfit
Follow Esther on Instagram : @esthermueller_