Here in Switzerland, Santa has come and gone! In Zürich alone, the Swiss Santas (“Samichlaus”) will make roughly 1,000 visits this year; within a few days around 6 December each year, just over 30 Santas, 50 Schmutzli and 50 drivers are underway. Now I’m fairly certain most of my readers are familiar with Santa; but here in Switzerland, his helper is called Schmutzli. Parents throughout the land book Samichlaus and his assistant, “Schmutzli”, and fill in a form for their children: Names, ages, their favourite subject in school, and the most important questions: What have the children improved in since the last visit by Samichlaus, and where do they need to improve? Making their bed, cleaning their room, being nice to their siblings, or sharing more often? The Samichlaus und his assistants (often two Schmutzli, who are the “coal” bearers, and often have blackened faces, and carry large baskets with some coal, a besom broom, and room for gifts given back to them by grateful parents!) go to the home at the appointed time, and sit down to speak with each child, reading from a great book they carry with them. Each child is then given a “Samichlaus” bag, and perhaps a gift sponsored by the parents.
Since 6 December is the official Samichlaus Day, it is customary on that day to give “Samichlaussäckli” (Santa Claus Bags) to friends, family, neighbours and coworkers. They are great winter gifts to take when visiting friends, and so I thought I would share it here with you, to spread Christmas cheer!
Peanuts in the shell (whole walnuts are also traditional, but optional)
Mandarin Oranges, apples
Individually wrapped chocolates
Homemade Christmas cookies, wrapped in clear plastic
Options: Gingerbread men, marzipan fruits, or pralines
The traditional bag is made of burlap, though cloth or plastic will work well too. Fill the bags, and put a note on them if you’re going to leave them at a neighbour’s door, or on a co-worker’s desk. Enjoy the joy of giving! And Merry Christmas!