Several traditions mark Christmas in Switzerland, according to its different cantons.
So, you should absolutely try the most common ones, going from the Christmas markets to the delicious cookies and the advent calendars.
Let’s discover them in detail!
Christmas in Switzerland: the best holiday traditions
1. Celebrating St Nicholas Day
First of all, you should know that the Swiss Santa Claus – or Samichlaus – is based on the historic figure of Saint Nicholas, who visits Switzerland on the 6th of December.
By tradition, he doesn’t bring gifts, but a huge bag filled with chocolates, mandarins, and peanuts, visiting families together with his donkey and his assistant Schmutzli!
2. Baking Christmas cookies
One of the major Swiss Christmas traditions consists of baking cookies and giving them away as nice cookie boxes, among which are:
- Chrabeli: eccentrically shaped and irresistible cookies with a distinctive flavor of anise seeds;
- Mailänderli: small cookies flavored with lemon zest and made with different cookie cutters, such as hearts or stars;
- Brunsli: made of hazelnuts or almonds, chocolate, and spices like cinnamon;
- Spitzbuben: jam-filled sandwich cookies, flavored with vanilla;
- Zimtsterne: gluten-free and similar to the Brunsli, but with no chocolate.
3. Engaging in an Advent Calendar or Advent Window
Swiss people enjoy counting the 24 days before Christmas through a store-bought or homemade Advent Calendar, and – mostly in smaller towns – even engage in an Advent Window.
The latter consists of decorating one of your home windows and accompanying the window’s opening with Christmas carols, cookies, or hot drinks!
4. Decorating an Advent Wreath
Then, the Adventskranz – or Advent Wreath – is a decorated circular wreath made of fir branches and four large candles, which count the last four weeks before Christmas Eve.
If you really want to immerse yourself in the Swiss Christmas atmosphere, we suggest you buy one at the farmers’ market or create it yourself!
5. Marveling at the handmade lanterns
During the Christmas holidays, you can see some small parades of beetroot lanterns – called Räbeliechtli – all over Switzerland.
Children usually create them at school and walk around with them while singing across villages. Joining this traditional social activity would make you really embrace the Swiss culture!
6. Visiting the Christmas markets
We’ve already seen what are the best Christmas markets in Switzerland and how they emanate a marvelous festive mood – such as Zurich’s Christkindlimarkt, the Berner Münster Christmas market, or Lausanne’s Bô Noël.
So, you can’t miss the opportunity to visit some of them!
7. Skating at a temporary ice rink
Last but not least, ice-skating is another typical winter and holiday tradition in Switzerland.
We suggest you have the time of your life in these temporary areas, which are set up in the middle of the cities’ Christmas markets and include also some catering outlets!