This christmas season is the first one that the little one actively celebrates. So far, it has been a great time both for her and for us. She as a little one learns about all the beautiful traditions that come with this time of the year. Advent wreath, christmas calender, candles, stars, Schwibbogen, christmas songs….And we as parents are slowly introducing our own traditions as a family and are happy and more than often quiet moved when watching her. Take the christmas songs, for example. She is so very much into them that she started to sing them (or parts of them) whenever she can. I have more than once been moved to tears when secretly watching her playing with her toys while singing a wild medley of Silent Night, Oh du Fröhliche and various Santa Claus songs.
However, christmas time is also the time of gifts and lots of sweets and somehow, for the first time, we are faced with the challende not to overdo it. Or shall we say, not to let it be overdone? Karsten and I both agree that christmas shouldn’t turn into a flood of presents. We are happy to put a few underneath the christmas tree, but both of us don’t like it if a present itself can’t be appreciated anymore because there are just so many more of them…However, giving presents is somwhat out of our hands. So is part of the christmas traditions. Especially as an expat. Which of our own traditions do we introduce and which of the Swiss traditions do we adopt?
Let me explain: Today is the sixth of December. Traditionally, we as Germans clean one of our boots the evening before and put it in front of the door. During the night, St. Nicholas comes and puts sweets (and, if you are lucky, a wee present) in the boot. In the morning of the 6th, you eagerly jump out of your bed and run to the door to see what St. Nicholas has brought you. In Switzerland, St. Nicholaus is not called St. Nicholaus but Samichlaus. And he has a companion called Schmutzli. The Samichlaus pretty much looks exactly like St. Nicholaus (not that I have ever seen him…he is pretty sneaky at night…but there are pictures of him to be found…). He brings a little bag filled with nuts, tangerines and, of course, chocolate. For those who fear that the Samichlaus will not visit him/her, already filled bags can also be bought in every supermarket.
So far, the little one got five of these bags. FIVE! The first one at her playgroup. The Samichlaus knocked on the door, but didn’t show himself. Instead, he left the bags for the kids in front of the door. On Friday, when the little one went to the Hueti group, she got the second one. As she was the only child there on Friday, the bag was accordingly big. When Karsten and the little one went shopping on Saturday morning, she received her third one as a present in the supermarket. And Saturday afternoon, we went to a christmas party at the family centre. There, the little one met the Samichlaus and Schmutzli personally and even sat on his lap (it was her own wish and she did it with her well-known expression…very stoically!). Of course, she got a bag filled with nuts and sweets too. The same day, the christmas gnomes who sit in front of our door brought a Grittibänz (a traditional Swiss christmas treat) for her.
That evening, Karsten and I agreed that we will skip St. Nicholaus this year. We just can’t find a proper explanation why St. Nicholaus/the Samichlaus seems to visit us almost every day. It was with a little bit of regret that we kept silent about the boot and St. Nicholaus yesterday, because I love this tradition. But enough is enough. So we thought. But we forgot our loving neighbours (no irony here – they are indeed great, all of them!). Someone not only brought the Grittibänz, but another secretly put a Samichlaus bag in front of our door today. Goodness gracious me!
Luckily, the little one lost her pacifier yesterday. So she painted a letter to the Samichlaus asking for a new one. We put the letter on the balcony so that the birds can deliver it. After a while, the letter was gone and we showed her the Samichlaus bag in front of our door (in which we added a new pacifier). And that’s hopefully it. Otherwise we have to fear that all the other children have been left out this year….