Seven ways to prepare for a Swiss Christmas

December 3, 2014, 2 Comments

December is here and there are just three weeks left until Christmas. But are you getting ready for it the Swiss way? That means making the most of the Advent season, which often feels almost as important as the day itself. So here are seven typical things for the next three weeks in Switzerland.

Everyone has to have an Advent calendar but Swiss ones are often a cut above the rest, as the main picture shows. Yes, there are kitschy glittery ones, but there also one with all sorts of things going on. Not forgetting calendars that are 3D with 24 little drawers or mini-stockings, each one with a gift, or online ones such as this one from Snowell.


But it’s not just an Advent calendar that’s crucial, it’s also the Advent decoration. This is usually a crown made up of evergreen foliage topped with four candles, one to be lit on each of the Sundays in Advent. This year I went to a make-your-own-crown evening at the Orangery in Bern (it was sold out, it’s that popular). As one of only two men there, I decided to be different and made an Advent centrepiece instead.

Christmas biscuits

The supermarkets are now full of ingredients for baking Guetzli, or Christmas mini cookies. Of course you can buy ready-made ones too but many people take the time to make their own, even taking a day off work to get the fiddly baking done. Everyone has their favourite cookie, from cinnamon stars to chocolate Brunsli.

Christmas market

Christmas shopping in Switzerland means visiting one of the many Christmas markets, which spring up in the last week of November. With the dark afternoons, there’s nothing better than strolling round stalls decorated with fairy lights. Zurich’s is indoors in the main station and Montreux has one along the shore of Lake Geneva. You are never far from a Swiss Christmas market with this list.


While you’re in those markets, you will most likely indulge in a glass of hot Glühwein to keep the chill away. It’s the traditional drink at this time of year, mixing red wine with fruit and spices. The name literally (and aptly) translates as ‘glow-wine’, much better than the English mulled wine. And the alcohol-free hot apple punch is rather delicious.

Samichlaus bags

On 6 December Samichlaus comes to town bearing gifts, usually little hessian bags filled with peanuts and chocolates. This Swiss version of St Nicholas gives the good kids the goodies; his rather threatening sidekick Schmutzli is also there with a blacked-out face and a stick for beating naughty boys and girls.


It’s no coincidence that in German the beautiful poinsettia is called a Weihnachtsstern (Christmas star) or Adventsstern (Advent star) as this is the most popular time to buy one. Its scarlet red foliage adds plenty of festive spirit until it’s time to put up the Christmas tree.

So that’s seven crucial ingredients for getting ready for a Swiss Christmas. But Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without chocolate, especially in Switzerland, so edible Santas are popping up all over the country. Then again, a piece of Swiss chocolate isn’t just for Christmas, it’s for every day.

Chocolate Santas



2 Comments on "Seven ways to prepare for a Swiss Christmas"

  1. Stella Thursday January 1st, 2015 at 06:28 AM · Reply

    Alte Samiclaus-Säcke sind nützlich um den Pflanzen gegen Frost zu schützen. Um den Topf wickeln. Oder füllen mit leeren Plastikflaschen als Kälteschutz.

  2. Pier Tuesday November 17th, 2015 at 04:11 PM · Reply

    In Italian Switzerland Christmas is not Christmas without panettone. Yum!

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