Schmutzli, St. Nicholas Vigilante Style

I am ashamed to admit that until I met my husband, I didn’t even know the Feast of St. Nicholas holiday existed.  They celebrate it in the German parts of Switzerland with St. Nick and his heavy, Schmutzli.

Drawing of Schmutzli and Santa from http://2.bp.blogspot.com

Unlike the holiday in the US, in Switzerland St. Nicholas brings his thug buddy, Schmutzli, with him.  For reasons I don’t fully understand, instead of reindeer, St. Nick usually shows up with donkey.  Schmutzli is a dirty guy dressed in brown hooded cloak and smeared with soot.  Unlike jolly old St. Nick,  Schmutzli traditionally beat naughty children with a switch and carried them off in a sack to be eaten in the woods.   Now, he’s a little bit less of a felon/child abductor.  He passes out the goodies and delivers stern lectures on proper behavior.  It’s pretty unique and highly entertaining, therefore, I’m giving Schmutzli two thumbs up.

Schmutzli and a donkey from http://www.eselmueller.ch/Kurse.php

Before he reformed his naughty ways, Schmutzli might have been even worse than that (see the illustration below).  Then again, who’s seen Bad Santa.

Schmutzli looking a little more dangerous than Santa who slides down a chimney and steals a kiss from Mommy – from http://2.bp.blogspot.com

By the way, if you are into metaphors, unlike in the US, St. Nicholas is slim in Switzerland.

Samichlaus (aka St. Nicholas or Santa Claus) with Schmutzli and donkey from http://rooschristoph.blogspot.com/2010/12/knecht-ruprecht-schmutzli-co.html

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Easter In Sweden

Easter celebrations in secular Sweden are comparable to Christmas for the secular American.  While some attend church on Easter Sunday, for a majority of Swedes many of the celebrations have little to do with Christian beliefs.  Easter is a big deal in Sweden and the entire country partakes in their holiday traditions.   We were in Sweden weeks before Easter, but signs of it were already everywhere.   The Swedes seemed to look forward to Easter as a sign of spring.

I asked a nice lady at the National Museum gift shop about branches with colored feathers attached to them.  In the 12 hours I’d spent in Sweden, I’d seen them countless times.  She explained to me that Easter in Sweden is kind of like Halloween in the US.  In Sweden, children dress up as witches, paint their faces, carry brooms and knock on their neighbor’s doors for treats.

The schedule is a bit different than in the US.  Many of the traditions predate Christianity and were incorporated into Easter celebrations over the years:

  • Palmsöndag (Palm Sunday) Instead of picking up palm leaves or other branches from the church, Swedes pick up pussy willows.  They are also used as an Easter decoration.
  • Svarta måndag (black Monday) is when chimneys were traditionally swept.
  • The Thursday before Easter, Skärtorsdag (Holy Thursday), Swedish children dress up as påskkärringar (witches) and go trick-or-treating…well, sort of.   Skärtorsdagen is the day of the Last Supper.  Swedes considered it a dangerous day to be out, because the old spirits were let loose.  The night was a time for the devil, who wanted you to sign a contract exchanging for riches for your soul.  Hence the witches…

  • Good Friday is more appropriately named in Swedish Långfredag – Long Friday.  No fun may be had on this day (to mourn of the crucifixion of Christ).  In fact, public entertainment was prohibited until 1969.   The fun recommences on Saturday morning.
  • Saturday night is Påskafton (the Christmas eve of Easter), a day for feasting and eating.  Families sit down to dinners of eggs and lamb, representing the fertility of the spring and the rebirth of the year after the long winter.   They also have special crackers and exchange cards.  Traditionally children make drawings of witches, chickens and eggs accompanied by a few words.  In the late afternoon, bonfires are lit in many areas to scare off the evil influences.
  • During Easter week in Sweden, it is taboo to get married or baptize a child.

By the way, Swedes also have beautifully decorated Easter eggs, both decorative and edible.

Happy Halloween!!!

 

Charlie Brown: Hey! I got an invitation to a Halloween party!
[dances happily]
Lucy Van Pelt: Is it the invitation to Violet‘s party, Charlie Brown?
Charlie Brown: Yes. It’s the first time I’ve been invited to a party.
Lucy Van Pelt: Charlie Brown.  If you got an invitation, it  was a mistake.  There were two lists, Charlie Brown.  One to invite and one not to invite.  You must have been put on the wrong list.

We were invited to a fantastic Halloween party this weekend (the explanation for the invitation is above).   The hostess with the mostest made “scary food” that was very tasty.

Lady J’s Coconut Macarons
Lady J’s Black Truffle Macarons
They also requested people send in old photos of themselves in costume.  This made for a very entertaining slide show that ran all evening.  In addition to embarrassing shots of ourselves (which I won’t be posting) I sent a cute one of the pups in their reindeer costumes.
Costumes were encouraged and people did not disappoint.

It’s The Little Differences – Halloween Version

One bag’s worth of candy

Top Ten Ways Halloween is Different in Switzerland:

10.  Smaller bags of Halloween candy.  There are 10-20 pieces per bag and each bag costs a lot more.

9.    You have to search hard to find the candy.  It’s not like the US where they sell it everywhere.  There are aisles of chocolate bars in the grocery stores.  Finding individually wrapped candies suitable for your Halloween candy bowl is another matter.  For example, I do not think it is appropriate to hand out individually wrapped candies containing cherry liqueur to children.

8.    Costumes are scary and supernatural-themed (witches, zombies, vampires, brains, blood, guts, etc.).  You don’t see nurses, TV/movie characters, famous people, cartoon characters, superheros, etc. The Rocky Horror Picture Show may be lost in translation.

7.    No trick-or-treaters.

Sally Brown:  Do I get to go trick-or-treating this year big
brother?
Charlie Brown:  Sure, Sally.
Sally Brown:  Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy!  How do we do it?
Lucy Van Pelt:  All you have to do is walk up to a house, ring the doorbell and say “Tricks or Treats.”
Sally Brown:  Are you sure it’s legal?
Lucy Van Pelt:  Of course it’s legal.
Sally Brown:  I wouldn’t want to be accused of taking part in a rumble.

I am Lisbeth Salander from “The Girl With The Dragon Tatoo“; he’s in Leiderhosen. 

6.    Halloween is not a huge holiday here so you get strange looks riding the tram or walking down the street looking like this.  I found it helpful to wish everyone who looked at me strangely a “happy Halloween”.  It usually elicited a smile.

5.    No pumpkin spice lattes.  We may have to bring some back with us.  I have become fixated on it.

4.    You might be disappointed with your Snickers after getting used to Swiss chocolate.  I suspect this aspect of reintegration will be difficult.

3.    No pet costumes.  If I happen to see a St. Bernard (or any other dog) in costume, I promise to whip out my camera and post it for you.

2.    Here, pumpkins are for eating.  It is hard to find carving pumpkins here and there are definitely not any pumpkin patches.  For that matter, I haven’t heard of any cider mills either.  Great, now I’m starting to fixate on apple cider too.

1.    No “It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown” on TV.   Thank goodness our awesome family sent us the book.

Happy Halloween!  Eat, drink and be scary!

 

We’ve Got Mail!

We got mail!  Getting the mail, however, is an entirely different matter.  To get the mail, I have to go to the post office, present both our passports and our marriage license.  Yep, you read that correctly.  They will not give me anything without proof that we are married.

I expected something from the bank and squealed when I saw it was a care package.  The nice lady at the post office thought it was interesting and asked all about my nieces who sent it.  She laughed when I told her it contained Halloween candy (I read the customs declaration on the outside of the box).  It’s not a huge holiday here like it is in the US.

WARNING!!!! If you are thinking about sending us a care package, perhaps you should consider emailing photos. I am sure the sender got a rude awakening when they saw the price at the post office (FedEx is even more expensive).
We used the cooler that evening!  This stuff rocks!

The box contained Halloween candy, Detroit Lions gear, some great books (the sender always has a good read on hand), halloween decorations and the best part pictures from our nieces (which went immediately on the fridge).

The pictures are already up on our fridge

Thank you!!!!!

I told you she had good taste in books!

 

The After

Please come visit

Sorry I didn’t post yesterday, it was a very busy day. I had my German lesson and went to Swisscom to get a phone (I waited so long that I got to watch a good part of the All Blacks-Tonga Rugby World Cup match). In the afternoon, I frantically tried to get ready because we had a housewarming party for last night. Pretty much, we invited everyone we know in Geneva outside of his work and everyone in our building. I hadn’t done enough preparation for a houseful of people so I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off.

Here are some pre-party pics of our place (otherwise known as “the after”):

We’e not vampires, but if we could make it any darker in here we would.
Want to visit us?  You will sleep here.
Another pic of your new room
Alcove in the entry – I swear I stored most of my books back in the states.
Note the fruit bowl from an earlier post (to prevent exploding bananas) 
Living Room
We can pull off the back cushions and sleep more people (it becomes a twin)
Dining room – 
Like our Swiss flag napkins?
Prepared for rain with an umbrella stand by the door
We call this our locker room (additional shoes not shown)
Bathroom
#2 gets its own room
Kitchen
My nemisis, the stove, tried to foil my baking chocolate chip cookies, but did not succeed. 
Our map board so we can find our way around