December 6, 2016

Samichlaus and Grittibänz

Today is St.Nicolas, an important date in Switzerland and one our family loves to celebrate. When I was a little girl, on the night of December 5th I would put my wellington boots (these were the biggest pair of shoes I owned) outside the front door, so that - over night - Samichlaus would fill them with mandarines, peanuts and chocolate.

The Swiss Father Christmas is based on Saint Nicholas, whose feast day was celebrated on December 6th – his Swiss German name, Samichlaus, alludes to that.

It hit me this afternoon while I was sitting in front of my computer... Samichlaus had not come by! Keeping in line with family tradition, this could not go uncelebrated even if we do now live in Paris. I popped out to buy some ingredients and went to work.

Expat daughter would be so happy to find a taste of "home" for teatime. She still remembers when her school class in Lugano went into the woods looking for San Nicolao. He would be waiting to distribute a Grittibänz, mandarines and some nuts to the good children, the bad children had to work things out with his helper "Schmutzli" who was considerable less understanding. However, after reciting a little poem in honour of Saint Nick they would all walk back to school with a big grin on their face carrying lots of goodies to take home.

So my kids do not speak Swiss German but they do know how to recite a Samichlaus poem to perfection. Motivation is everything!

Grittibänz is Samichlaus' speciality: 
these little bread men are made primarily for Saint Nicholas Day, 
and likely date back to the 16th century.

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