Monday, 8 December 2014

Samiclaus Tag (St. Nicholas Day) ~ Swiss-style!

December 6th is a traditional day for St. Nicholas to visit in many parts of Europe.  In the German-speaking regions of Switzerland like Basel, St. Nicholas is known as Samiclaus.  This Swiss Santa does not bring presents on Christmas Day but instead, give edible treats in a burlap sack consisting of clementine oranges, unshelled peanuts, chocolates and gingerbread-like cookies (lebkuchen).  
(Source: SRF)
It is a tradition among Swiss children to leave their polished shoes/boots out on the night of December 5th, and wake up the next day to find their shoes/boots filled with little treats (if you have been nice) or twigs (if you have been naughty!).  My 5-year old son said: "Samiclaus only gives presents to Swiss children and I am not Swiss!"  Because of this, my kids didn't leave their boots out on December 5th.  ;)

  Samiclaus is accompanied by his black-faced, black-robed assistant called Schmutzli.  I was told that if the kids have been naughty, Schmutzli will take them away to the Black Forest to be whipped with twigs and to peel carrots for the donkeys for the entire year!  In Switzerland, you can actually hire Samiclaus & Schmutzli to visit your house.  However, the waitlist is long and often, you have to book half a year in advance!
Samiclaus and Schmutzli
(Source: Confessions of a Part-time Working Mom)
Last year when Keefe was in Preschool 2, Samiclaus visited their class.  He read from his golden book to check whether the kids had been nice or naughty during the previous year.  Each kid was given a grattimaa/grittibanz, the Swiss version of the gingerbread man which originated from Basel in the 16th century.

 Swiss families usually bake and eat grattimaa/grittibanz on December 6th.  My kids love them so we decided to make these little bread men on St. Nicholas Day.  The kids enjoyed playing with the dough and Keefe decided that his grattimaa should be shaped as Santa Claus!

Kai saw Saint Nicolas when we were in Saint Louis, France on the morning of December 6th.  Saint Nicolas gave him a small bag of treat consisting of mannala (the French version of the grattimaa) and a chocolate fashioned like Saint Nicolas.

Our day ended with a parade of Santas driving their festively decorated Harley Davidson motorbikes in Marktplatz.  This is an annual event in Basel and is very popular - I wonder why we didn't watch it last year!
(Source: Yahoo)
(Source: Flickr)

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