Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Samichlaus is Comin' to Town

Well, to be more accurate he already came. Yesterday he walked the streets with Schmutzli and his donkey, and later Samichlaus took some time out of his busy day to wheel his shopping cart around my local Migros and hand out oranges and chocolate bars.

Image via Google Images
That Schmutzli character is terrifying!

Dan already gave me the scoop on Samichlaus and Schmutzli long before the idea of moving to Switzerland was even an idea. Christmas is important to me, as I love that it is about family and togetherness and board games and spiked egg nog. So during our "Hi-Nice-To-Meet-You" days, it was imperative that I discover if Dan was a big ol' Scrooge who would cast a 'Christmas is for twats, I'm above it all' attitude all over my favourite time of year, or if he was a Christmas kindred spirit. 

That is when he told me that the Swiss version of Santa--Samichlaus--visits little children on December 6th and goes door-to-door. He has his helper Schmutzli with him, and Dan said that when he was growing up, for a solid month leading up to December 6th if he or his brother would misbehave their mom appropriately threatened them that she was going to tell Schmutzli what bad boys they were, and he'd snatch them up in his sack and carry them off to the Black Forest. The fact that Schmutzli actually would visit their house with Samichlaus, and would have a sack over his shoulder, well that's just every parent's bribing dream don't you think?

Dan said he and his brother used to have to recite little verses or sing a song for Samichlaus, and if they did well they would be rewarded with oranges and nuts and chocolate.

As he told me his Christmas story, I couldn't help but feel sorry for poor Dan and all the other Swiss kids. Nuts and oranges? Having to sing for their supper? Getting snatched up in a sack if they were bad? No North Pole or elves or reindeer? No letters to Santa? How sad. 

But I never actually considered how Samichlaus directly impacted me, until yesterday. As I walked into my Migros there was the tall and skinny man himself lording over a small gathering of children (maybe three or four) while their smiling parents hung back. These little kids all had their heads tipped back, Charlie Brown Christmas style, and were angelically reciting a little poem for Samichlaus. When they finished he said a few words to them then reached into his shopping cart and passed out oranges and chocolate hazelnut sticks.

"How sweet," I thought, as I looked at the kids excitedly run to show their parents their loot.

Then as I meandered through the produce department I noticed that Samichlaus was pushing his cart around and approaching people. A little gaggle of teenage girls burst into hysterical giggles as they sung/mumbled a little tune in return for their oranges and chocolate treats; a couple good naturedly played along, as did a few other people.

Then right as I finished weighing my carrots, Samichlaus approached me.

Every shy person's worst nightmare! Sing a song to a perfect stranger in return for an orange and a chocolate stick? NO THANK-YOU.

When he approached me I perfectly channelled my four year old self as I put a desperate look of fear on my face, tossed my carrots in the cart and got the hell out of produce without giving the tall man in red so much as a backwards glance.

Sorry Switzerland, but I'm just not down with Samichlaus.

My affection for Santa however, well that's a whole different story for a whole different blog post. 


T said...

hahahaha, I would have done the same thing! Does Samichlaus come again on Christmas eve too? Or has Santa taken over now? Very interesting post Caitie!

Habebi said...

Yay another mega into it Christmas person!! I'm a Christmas junkie. Can't get enough of the shows (most of them) carols, songs, decor, food, everything Christmas!

I think the Swiss tradition is cute and old so I can respect that. But like you no way I wouldve sang to him!! LoL

Ais said...

Haha, oh man! Worst nightmare indeed!

Caitie said...

T--Nope, Samichlaus only comes on the 6th. But every European country (and loads of other countries around the world) has its version of Santa, or the bearer of gifts. Actually I learned that the name 'Kris Kringle' is the German take on the 'Christ Child' who bears gifts here on Dec. 24th. It's actually pretty interesting how so many different countries celebrate St. Nicholas.

Habebi--Total Christmas junky! I just love it so much. I really like getting together with family, and for me the more chaos the better. I love a noisy and festive Christmas, with lots of games and movies.

Ais--You're lucky you weren't with me. I would have totally made you sing, totally. You're off the hook though next week becuase he's only a one day deal. But don't worry, I'll probably find another way to make you feel horribly uncomfortable in public ;-)

Kristi said...

Last year I saw Schmutzli schmutzing around a quiet, dark street in my town of Kilchberg. It was horrifying to say the least and reminded me of my pepper spray days in the ATL. Schmutzli can suck an orange for all I care.