Being a Buddhist, celebrating Christmas is not a tradition. However, it is still a public holiday back in Malaysia and having an extra day off is always good! I celebrated my first Christmas in Switzerland and I have to admit, I enjoyed this festive season! Christmas in Switzerland is everything from gifts, cookies, Santa Claus, family gathering, Christmas tree, snow…etc, except turkey! One thing I find exciting is having a Christmas card with 25 ‘windows’ on it. Each window is opened from the 1st of December until Christmas day. There is a different picture or surprise when the window is opened.
I will also never forget Chlausabend (in direct translation Claus Evening)! Chlausabend is usually celebrated on the 6th of December every year but nowadays it may be celebrated on the weekend nearest to that date. What is so interesting about this Chlausabend? All this while, I only know Santa Claus but in Switzerland, Samichlaus (Santa Claus) is accompanied by Schmutzli. In the German-speaking part of Switzerland, Samichlaus refers to St. Nikolaus (Nicholas of Myra, Patron Saint of Children), whom has a white beard, wears a long red robe and carry a sack of bag filled with small bags of coodies, like Santa Claus. Schmutzli is the helper, always wearing a dark robe and usually carrying a cane. Kids are warned to behave themselves, otherwise Schmutzli will cane them. My first Chlausabend was organized by AFS Zurich in 2001. We all gathered in a forest at night. As I stood in a circle in the cold, Samichlaus and Schmutzli showed up. Then one by one, each of us were called. Schmutzli said about the bad things we did but after that Samichlaus cheered us up by telling us the good things we did. In the end, we all had a small bag each, filled with nuts, chocolates, lebkuchen…etc). I still have the bag with me back home!!!
My second Chlausabend was in 2003, when Alissa and I came back to Switzerland to visit our host families. My third Chlausabend was a few days ago, also in Rümlang. Gabi brought me and her friends there. When I was there, I had some flashbacks of the things Alissa and I did in 2003. Gabi parked her car directly in front of a biulding and I recalled immediately that it was the place where Alissa and I did kerzenziehen (in direct translation candle pulling but obviously it makes no sense so in short candle making). When we walked around the area, designed with Christmas light and deco, I remembered a picture Alissa and I took after we both received a bag from Samichlaus. I told Gabi about that and she asked if I remember that Alissa and I actually learn a rhyme on the spot and recite it to Samichlaus in order to get a bag of goodies. I only remembered I had to do something but could not recall what it was until Gabi recited the rhyme:
Santi Niggi Näggi. Hinderem Ofe stäggi. Gib mir Nuss und Bire. So kumm i hinde füre.
Of course this time I was there just for fun. No rhyme or nag from Samichlaus and Schmutzli but then definitely no bag too! For me, however, being able to experience all this is already a treasure itself!!! Thanks to my host family, I really have a good time learning and experiencing their culture and ways of life, which I have also adopted most of it! Unfortunately, I do not have any photos from Samichlaus and Schmutzli, only from the Christmas deco. Thanks to the new camera, no more dodgy photos using my handphone!!