Christmas in Switzerland is celebrated, in many ways, as it is in neighbouring countries. Nonetheless, there are unique Swiss Christmas traditions and events to be encountered as well. Christmas is observed with a public holiday every 25 December – and the canton of Glarus gets a Christmas Eve holiday too.
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The Christmas season in Switzerland commences with Advent in late November, and Advent calendars are often used to count down the days to 25 December. Additionally, houses in some neighbourhoods rotate in decorating an “Advent window” and holding special Advent parties.
Throughout December, there are many Christmas markets in Switzerland’s towns and cities, along with elaborate festive lights displays and local parades. Children will also sometimes go carolling, called “star singing” in Switzerland because a large star is worn on the children’s heads to represent the star of Bethlehem.
“Samichlaus” (Santa) arrives on 6 December, which is Saint Nicholas’ Day, bringing presents to good little Swiss girls and boys. On 24 December, Baby Jesus or Father Christmas will deliver the gifts. And finally, on 6 January (Epiphany), the Three Wise Men will bring yet more presents. Thus, Swiss kids are fortunate that numerous Christmas present traditions have converged in their country.
Christmas trees are set up and decorated in Switzerland much as in other lands. Lights are used by most, but some of the more traditional Swiss families still use candles. The candles are not lit until 24 December, and that is when the gifts Baby Jesus brought are opened as well.
Christmas dinner is eaten on Christmas Eve and often features a Christmas ham with scalloped potatoes as the main side dish. Fondue, a kind of cheese sauce meant for bread-dipping, walnut cake, numerous varieties of cookies, and mulled wine are also common Swiss Christmas foods.