Jingle all the way
We have well and truly been getting in the seasonal spirit over the last few weeks, in what has been a round of Christmas markets, several flurries of snow (plus being caught up a mountain in a snow storm) all washed down with a healthy glug of gluhwein and the odd sausage! We have had the end of school Christmas festivities, teacher’s appreciation cookie day (a good idea when all the children take in cookies for their teachers, we sent some seasonal rocky road, made with amaretti biscuits instead of digestives – good old Nigella). We have experienced a Swiss style evening courtesy of my husband’s company and been slightly unnerved by a Swiss tradition.
The aforementioned tradition happens on 6th December. This is the day when Samichlaus (the equivalent of our Father Christmas) as he is referred to in Switzerland travels through Swiss villages with his trusty sidekick Schmutzli (youngest referred to him as that odd looking monk as he is adorned in a long black cape) who, in olden times acted as the ‘enforcer’ (the fact that he used to carry a whip didn’t make him exactly cute and cuddly) making sure that the children behaved. It also gets slightly unnerving because they walk through the streets at all hours ringing a bell, calling at homes to check if children are behaving themselves, if they have behaved throughout the year they get a sack of nuts and oranges and chocolate – that’s the good bit. We did actually see Samichalus handing out some Grittibänzen (Christmas bread men – and very lovely with a coffee for breakfast) at our local supermarket with Schmutzli (neither looking sinister at all) to a group of excited children.
Weihnachtsmarkt & Christmas lights
We have had some lovely friends staying with us over several weekends and this has been a good excuse to get out and about exploring the Christmas markets and checking out the Christmas lights in Zurich and Luzern. One of the highlights is the Swarovski Christmas tree in Zurich HB (main station) where there is a massive Christmas market; The tree stands 50ft high and is decked out with over 6,000 Swarovski pieces!! This is the 20th year that the tree has appeared in the station and is a stunning sight. When we visited the Christmass market it was a little too busy for my liking, cramped and you couldn’t really look at the stalls. The other Zurich Christmas market near the Zurich Opera House was much nicer and more food focussed, would you believe one of our fav stalls was the English Fudge stall (yes I know) but we also discovered the most delicious, I think you would call it a cake, which is made on a spit and called Trdelník, it originates from central Europe, it is a dough that is wound around a stick and then grilled, it is then dipped in sugar and cinnamon – and it is flippin gorgeous, especially on a super cold evening, I would recommended tracking these down!
Another heart-warming sight is the singing Christmas tree, on one of the main shopping streets off Bahnhofstrasse (the uber expensive shopping street in the centre of Zurich). The tree has been created like a huge stage, children from local schools are ‘placed’ within the tree throughout the seasonal period and sing throughout the days running up to Christmas for the shoppers in the city.
We had a very lovely Book Club Christmas meal the week before last week in a lovely restaurant called Tisch und Bar – a very traditional Swiss restaurant which also has a very quaint shop attached, eating and shopping all under one roof, what could be better? We were also going to discuss our latest book – I mentioned it in my last blog, Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum, I had said that I thought that it was going to be quite saucy; given that it was about the escapades of a bored Swiss housewife, it turned out it be quite brutal and very sad/tragic at the same time, (I won’t give too much away in case anyone wants to read it) parts of it we not suitable for discussion in a public place, but did raise a giggle or two.
So when I have not been careering round the Canton getting high on gluhwein fumes, what else have I been up to?
What I’m dipping in to: Daphne du Maurier ‘Not after Midnight’ a book a short stories, I found this on my bookshelf as it has one of my favs in it, Don’t Look now! Think Venice, small character in a red duffle coat ; creepy, sinister and du Maurier fabulous.
What I’m listening to: Jeremy Hardy ‘Feels it’ his new series on Radio 4, if you are a fan of Jeremy’s observational humour, I would highly recommend this. Each episode explores human emotions, the first two episodes, Sad & Happy are available on iplayer now.
A trip back down memory lane:
We drove back to the UK last week, with an overnight stay in Reims, chance to see the stunningly huge Cathedral there – great stained glass and a quick sprint round the Christmas market.
Think I may have to join some sort of Christmas Market support group once I go cold turkey (get it) in January. Driving back made me nostalgic – yes, I know how strange. It got me thinking of the simple things that used to excite me as a child and what I suspect would draw blank faces from the children today.
Get the nuts out
The excitement when the bowl of nuts appeared, then watching as Dad went at them with the nut crackers ,followed by months of finding wayward bits of Brazil nut shell all over the living room!
Toffee and a hammer
I can remember the excitement of the tray appearing, but can’t really remember eating it.
Radio & TV Times
The excitement of when they both arrived through the letter box (paper boys, remember them?) then looking at all the exciting things that could be watched over the festive holiday.
World’s Strongest man
Christmas wasn’t Christmas without Geoff Capes dragging a Datsun Sunny across your screen on Boxing Day – it’s on Channel 5 this week (though no Geoff Capes, sadly)
Sneaking down and eating some for breakfast and always feeling short changed if there was a KitKat in included.
So that’s all from me for 2017, thanks as always for reading and from our house to yours we wish you seasonal greetings and a fabulous 2018, when I will be back with more Swiss adventures.
Lovely and entertaining as usual, Sarah. Merry Christmas to the Smart family and your Mom and Dad also. Best wishes for a healthy and happy 2018.
Thanks Bev and all our love to you too and best wishes for 2018 – thanks for reading xx
Hi Sarah, lovely to read about your Christmas activities. The idea of Schmutzli sounds like Zwarte Piet (Black Peter – not exactly PC these days!) that they have in Holland.
The decorations sound better than those in Oxford, although the Wantage Dickensian evening is still nice to go to.
We went to see Jeremy Hardy at the Beacon in Wantage a few weeks ago and he was great. The whole audience was in stitches.
Brazil nuts – oh yes, same with us. Toffee and hammer was more Anne’s side of the family.
Radio and TV Times – these were a nightmare for paper boys – I know ‘cos I was one. Double the weight and roughly double the number of people buying them. It meant an extra trip to get them all delivered.
Prettige Kerstdagen and Gellukkig Nieuwjaar