"Christmas Around the World" logoNovember 2003-January 2004
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Switzerland
Swiss flag Bellas Festas
Swiss tree
 
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Switzerland is a place where winter holiday traditions thrive. The holiday season in Switzerland is a unique blend of old and new customs; Catholic and Protestant religions; and German, French and Italian influences.

Although Christmas traditions abound in Switzerland, there is no single "typically Swiss" holiday custom. The people of different regions celebrate the season in their own way. While the holiday celebrations across the countryside have their own uniqueness, a closer look at the Swiss holiday customs and traditions reveals that many of them have been influenced by the surrounding countries.

Certain traditions, such as the Advent wreath, the Christmas tree, Christmas carols, a large holiday meal and St. Nicholas, are observed by most of the Swiss population. Although as you travel through the different regions of Switzerland you will find St. Nicholas is known by many different names Father Christmas, Samichlaus, the Christkindli, Père Noël, and Gesú Bambino. But to each he represents the gift-bearer.

On Christmas Eve the children must leave the room while the parents adorn the Christmas tree in secret. The Swiss Christmas tree is often illuminated with real candles and topped with either a star or an angel. Cookies, nuts and foil wrapped chocolates hang from the boughs.

For many centuries chocolate has had a special place in Switzerland. At Christmas time chocolate treats are often given as gifts and used to decorate the trees. Although the Swiss did not invent chocolate they have perfected it and are the world's largest consumers of chocolate today.

On Christmas Eve in some of the peasant homes found in remote mountain vales, an onion is cut and separated into 12 layers, one for each month of the coming year, each is filled or covered with salt. On the following morning, the layer is examined and those that are damp, indicate rainy months, and those that are dry indicate the fair months.