Christmas in Switzerland
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#1: Christmas in Switzerland Author: CatherineSLocation: Smalltown, West of Scotland PostPosted: Thu Nov 30, 2006 9:10 pm
I suspect this question or something similar may have been on the board before, but I'm not sure. Also, there may be references in the books which I have missed, if anyone knows of any? Anyway, here goes:

How would English families like the Maynards have celebrated Christmas on the Platz? Would they have celebrated with gifts on Christmas morning, had a Christmas tree with decorations or candles? Any ideas what a Christmas meal would have involved? When would they have gone to Church and how would the ethos have differed (my child seems to have absorbed the fact that Christmas is about Santa, shiny gifts and Thomas the Tank - hopefully we can inspire him with the spirit of Christmas too!).

I seem to recall than in the Austrian years the Bettanys embraced local traditions, but I can't recall a Christmas scene in the Swiss books. Can anyone help?

Thanks, Catherine.

#2:  Author: KBLocation: Melbourne, Australia PostPosted: Thu Nov 30, 2006 9:22 pm
You're right, there really aren't Christmas scenes in the Swiss books. Books set in the Christmas term end when the term does and don't show the holidays. However, there are plenty of websites that describe traditional Swiss Christmases. For instance, one website contains the following:

Christmas celebrations in Switzerland do not differ very much from those in other western European nations and the United States. However, the customs in Switzerland's four different linguistic regions (German, French, and Italian) tend to resemble those of their immediate neighbors, Germany and Austria for the German-speaking part, France for the French-speaking cantons (states) and Italy for the canton of Ticino and southern valleys of the Grisons.

There is an interesting difference in comparison with American customs: Santa Claus plays a much smaller part at Christmas. In the German and French-speaking parts of the country, his role is taken over by the "Christkind" or "Le petit Jésus," the Christ child, a beautiful, radiant, angel-like being with wings, dressed in white with a shining crown and a magic wand. According to popular belief, it represents little Jesus. Though sometimes, it is connected with an angel bearing a light or star who heralded the birth of Christ at Bethlehem. The Christ child also has the attributes of a fairy (wand and wings). Little children are told that this person -and not Santa Claus- brings the tree and the gifts on Christmas Eve. That is why small children do not get to see the tree before the actual celebration. Bigger children, however, help the parents decorate the tree. At the foot of the decorated tree, a creche is often placed with wooden or ceramic figures representing the adoration of Jesus in the manger at Bethlehem, with shepherds, angels, sheep, a cow and a donkey and the three Magi.

Usually parents decorate the tree on Christmas Eve. But more and more, especially young families are adopting the American way of having a decorated tree and electric lights all through December. (December is also "Advent" or "waiting" period: four candles on a green spruce wreath are the outward sign of this period, when a new candle is lit every Sunday until Christmas Eve. Advent is usually a hectic time with buying gifts, decorating tree and other ornaments, learning poems and songs, all contributing to the festivities of Christmas. After an early dinner, the whole family, ideally several generations, gathers around the tree. Songs and sometimes hymns are sung. Some read the birth passage from the bible. Gifts are exchanged. Those who are not too tired go to midnight mass which is always particularly festive. The most popular song heard during that time is "Silent Night, Holy Night," written and composed in Austria. The tree is always there on Christmas Eve. But depending on the region, Christmas gifts are exchanged on Christmas Day, January 1 or January 6 (Epiphany, when the three Magi were said to have visited the Christ child).

The name Santa Claus comes from Sankt Nikolaus or Saint Nicolas (an early Christian bishop from Myra in present-day Turkey, the protector of children). This friendly figure does not play a role at Christmas, but appears on December 6, the Patron Saint's Day. In the Swiss German part, he is known as "Samichlaus" and he visits homes and schools, distributing sweets, fruits and nuts to well-behaved children and giving good advice to the less well-behaved. In Switzerland, he is not accompanied by a reindeer, but very often by a donkey and a dark-clad assistant. The children assume that they come from the snowy mountains.

Hope that helps!

#3:  Author: CatherineSLocation: Smalltown, West of Scotland PostPosted: Thu Nov 30, 2006 9:59 pm
Thanks very much, KB. Smile

#4:  Author: LizBLocation: Oxon, England PostPosted: Thu Nov 30, 2006 10:00 pm
I wouldn't be surprised if they had a mixture of traditions, as Jo spent nearly 10 years (growing up years at that) in the Tyrol with their traditions (I'm sure she saw more of them than just the Christmas in Innsbruck in Jo of), so might be more familiar with some of those than with British traditions. At least, I'd like to think so Very Happy

#5:  Author: RóisínLocation: Ireland PostPosted: Mon Dec 04, 2006 11:26 am
Is there a list at all of the Christmases described, or almost described (ie maybe described in retrospect) in the CS books?

#6:  Author: KBLocation: Melbourne, Australia PostPosted: Mon Dec 04, 2006 12:20 pm
*lol* This will be looooong!

Jo of the Chalet School
Christmas play - The Youngest Shepherd
Madge, Jo and the Robin go to spend Christmas at Innsbruck with the Menches.

The Head Girl of the Chalet School
Madge comes down with mumps before Christmas, so Jo and the Robin go to England with Miss Maynard

Visitors to the Chalet School
Nativity Play called The Open Door (as named in Rivals)

Rivals for the Chalet School
Nativity Play called The Guest (Black Forest legend also used in The Lost Staircase)
A Christmas tree is set up and decorated, with the decorations going to children living nearby.

Exploits of the Chalet Girls
Nativity Play Christmas Through The Ages

Jo Returns to the Chalet School
Nativity Play called The Spirit of the Bells
The Chalet girls make up presents to give the poor children of Vater Johann's parish in Innsbruck (presumably the Christmas Treet idea has been abandoned).

Gillian of the Chalet School
Nativity Play based on a local Tyrolean legend

The Chalet School and Robin
Nativity Play The Spirit of the Bells (The Bells of Christmas)

The Highland Twins at the Chalet School
Nativity Play depicting wartime Christmas The Message of Christmas

A Mystery for the Chalet School
Nativity Play of various international Christmas traditions

Three Go to the Chalet School
Carol concert, no play

Peggy of the Chalet School
Carol concert, no play

Shocks for the Chalet School
Nativity Play called The Three Kings

The Chalet School in the Oberland
Pantomime for the local people The Sleeping Beauty

The Chalet School and Barbara
Nativity Play called Strangers at the Inn

Mary Lou of the Chalet School
Celebration of the feast of St Nicholas
Carol concert instead of nativity play

The New Mistress at the Chalet School
Nativity Play depicting religious scenes

The Chalet School and Richenda
Nativity play depicting scenes from the Middle Ages

Ruey Richardson - Chaletian
Francie Wilford's depiction of St Nicholas, the Bishop of Myra
Nativity Play about the spoilt child

A Future Chalet School Girl
The story of the writing of Stille Nacht (Silent Night)

The Feud in the Chalet School
Nativity play of Christmas Through The Ages

Redheads of the Chalet School
Nativity Play of Sarah the selfish girl

A Challenge for the Chalet School
Nativity Play of a Black Forest legend (the same one as in Rivals)

New Beginnings for the Chalet School
Nativity Play based on the legend of the Passion Play

The end result of all that is that traditions (apart from the story told in the Nativity play) are all but forgotten once the school leaves Austria. *phew*

#7:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Mon Dec 04, 2006 11:49 pm
It's a shame we're never told much about Christmas in the Oberland - which I think was mainly Protestant at the time so would've been different to Austria.

I've just got back from a long weekend in Northern France and was quite surprised by how big a deal St Nicholas's Day is there. There were loads of chocolate and gingerbread St Nicholases for sale, anyway Wink !

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