5 wholesome Swiss Christmas traditions

5 wholesome Swiss Christmas traditions

Switzerland - like most of the German-speaking world - comes alive at Christmas. Whether it’s enchanting Christmas markets or a special carol service at church, Switzerland is full of wholesome Christmas traditions. With Christmas Day imminently approaching, here are five things the Swiss love to do at Christmas time.

1. Baking traditional Swiss delicacies

Baking is a key part of Christmas in Switzerland and is a great way to get the family together. Along with the treats Switzerland produces year-round, the country also bakes several types of Christmas cookies and treats.

Some of the most famous ones are Brunsli, Zimtsterne, Chräbeli or Spitzbuben, with each having its own shape and taste including almonds, sugar glaze and jam. It is not uncommon for neighbours and acquaintances to exchange homemade cookies at Christmas. If you do not feel adept at making the cookies yourself, they are usually available in Swiss supermarkets.

Another famous baked good is the Grittibänz, a man-shaped sweet bread roll. These can be plain, with raisins and almonds, or with a chocolate bar stuck into the bread. The figure is meant to represent Schmutzli, the sidekick of Santa in Switzerland, and can come equipped with his own novelty pipe.

2. Ice skating in Switzerland at Christmas

Almost every large council (Gemeinde) in Switzerland will have its own ice rink for the public to use at Christmas time. These are communal areas, occasionally part of Christmas markets, where people of all ages can glide across the ice together. Ice rinks typically open in early October and run until early March, but it is at Christmas that the rinks come into their own.

Whether you are a seasoned veteran of the ice or someone carefully making their way around the periphery, the ice rink is definitely a Swiss staple. If skating isn’t your thing, there is usually a Glühwein or hot chocolate stand nearby. Some of the larger ice rinks will have special events at Christmas like concerts and parties.

Ice skating Switzerland

3. Making a Swiss Christmas wreath (Adventskranz)

Another pleasant tradition from Switzerland is to make an advent wreath in the run-up to Christmas. An advent wreath is typically a circular assembly of fir branches, decorations and candles. Traditionally, there are four candles on each wreath, and one is lit every Sunday during Advent.

Making an advent wreath is relatively simple: just take a mesh of moss and wire or a green "oasis" ring, add a selection of fir tree branches and create your preferred pattern with the decoration. Alternatively, you can find an Adventskranz in many shops in Switzerland.

Advent wreath Switzerland

4. Making your town into an advent calendar (Adventsfenster)

A great way to get in tune with the local community is to look for Adventsfenster, or advent windows. This is where the local Gemeinde nominates 25 different households or businesses to display a “Christmas window,” turning your neighbourhood into a town-sized advent calendar.

Each window has a specific date displayed, from December 1 to 25. Participants are then encouraged to decorate a window of their house or apartment. On that specific day, locals visit the window and the owners may put on refreshments and music. December 25 is typically reserved for churches, where a service is done to conclude the event.

5. Do you want to build a snowman?

Finally, if you are lucky enough to have snow on the ground at Christmas, be it on holiday at a ski resort in the Swiss mountains or in a high alpine town, a snowman is a typical Christmas tradition in Switzerland. The traditional snowman has three snowballs of reducing size that are attached to each other, with sticks or branches for arms.

Like the rest of the world, families in Switzerland like to decorate their snowmen with liquorice or coal for eyes and a carrot for a nose. It is a pleasant way to ring in the holiday season and celebrate a White Christmas.

building snowmen Switzerland

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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