I can remember visiting Santa in (I think) Lewis’s Argyll Street in Glasgow – Christmas decorations everywhere, a long queue, and being propelled in and out of the Grotto. My children have never done anything like that. Christmas in Switzerland is different.
For a start, we don’t have Father Christmas. (Though the Samichlaus, who comes on December 6th and distributes peanuts, chocolate and mandarine oranges does bear more than a passing resemblance to Santa…) Christmas presents, however, are brought on the 24th by the Christkindli (little Christ Child).
By afternoon on the 24th, most people are off school/work for Christmas. The tradition is for families to gather for dinner in the evening, often preceded by a walk in the woods, or a frantic last-minute shop, or a visit to a carol concert. This means the kids are out the house, which gives the Christkindli plenty of time to whizz in, erect and decorate the tree, leave a selection of presents underneath, and whizz back out again. No reindeer involved, no getting stuck up the chimney, and no sherry and biscuits to consume.
The family return home and do their own traditional thing. We had a separate dining room so the living room was locked (by the Christkindli) until after dinner, when we all trooped in (it was magically unlocked by this time), opened the presents, played, and finished the Christmas sherry…
So the kids go to bed exhausted on the 24th, and (if you’re lucky) sleep late on the 25th. Nobody is creeping around at 3 a.m to see if Santa has been, and nobody is up for the day at 4.30 to investigate their sock.
I have to admit, I missed the sock bit when my boys were small. A couple of times I filled them a sock for the 25th, but the magic just wasn’t there. Sometimes, you can’t mix traditions.
Whatever you’re doing, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas – see you next year!