Samichlaus and Schmutzli – Learn how Swiss Santa works!


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How Swiss Santa Works - Samichlaus Tradition in Switzerland

Samichlaus and Schmutzli – Learn how Swiss Santa works!

How Swiss Santa Works - Samichlaus Tradition in Switzerland

Swiss Santa is not exactly a jolly good fellow like his American counterpart. He is not mean spirited, either. But yet, his job description differs quite a bit.

Here is an overview of the Swiss Santa tradition from my own perspective. It is important to note that the details of how this tradition is carried out differs significantly within Switzerland. Each linguistic region has their own traditions, and catholic cantons vary from protestant cantons.

December 6 is Santa Day in Switzerland

Regardless of where you are located, December 6 is the traditional Santa Day in Switzerland. On this day, “Samichlaus” and his companion “Schmutzli” (as they are called in Swiss German) will emerge from their cottage in the woods to visit children at their kindergartens, classrooms and homes.

Rather than flying on a reindeer-pulled sleigh, Samichlaus and Schmutzli walk across the countryside with a donkey in tow.

How Swiss Santa Works - Samichlaus and Schmutzli with Donkey

Rehearsing of Santa poems in exchange for goodies

Once they reach town, Samichlaus and Schmutzli have their work cut out for them. One by one, they will visit families at their home. Some living rooms are decorated with candles and Christmas lights, while others show no sign of festive times. Once seated, Samichlaus with his deep voice will narrate a heartwarming story.

Next up, children are expected to rehearse a poem and make a promise to better themselves for the upcoming year. To thank them for their poems, Schmutzli will hand them a gingerbread cookie from his sack.

And finally, the emptying of the big bag. Whether they have been naughty or nice, children are left witha pile of walnuts, peanuts, chocolates, tangerines and ginger breads…

As you can tell, a Santa visit is not a bad deal for those kids who have studied up.

Here are some nostalgic Swiss Santa memories from my own childhood:


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