When several of the familiar traditions of Western European countries are mirrored in Christmas in Switzerland, many of the timings relate a lot more directly to religious festivals within this deeply Catholic country.
In the German speaking regions of Switzerland – especially the central cantons – the chief gift-giver is Samichlaus (St Nicholas). Christmas in Switzerland literally comes early, even though, since Samichlaus does his rounds on the feast day of St Nicholas – December 6. The patron saint of kids is accompanied by Schmutzli, a moody figure who carries a sack of toys in one particular hand plus a cane (or “Rute”) inside the other, with which to deliver either Christmas joy or corporal punishment.
Conversely, for French and Italian-speaking young children, Christmas in Switzerland comes late, using the key gift-giving not occurring till Epiphany – January 6. This much more accurately reflects the timings of events at the birth of Christ, where the three sensible guys did not arrive until 12 days later. Particularly for Italian children, these presents are delivered by Befana, a type however ugly witch riding a broomstick.
Originating from the Italian tradition, Befana would be the woman who refused to give the sensible men shelter or food on their lengthy journey, also dismissing their request that she join them on their pilgrimage to Bethlehem, claiming that she had not the time. She later saw the star of Bethlehem inside the sky and regretted her decision. She set off to stick to the wise guys, however the star faded and she was unable to deliver her presents for the baby Jesus. She continues to attempt, although, delivering presents to each and every property inside the hope that she will at some point get the right 1.
All three distinct areas of Switzerland do share the gift-giver of Christmas Day in widespread, although they call him distinct points: to German-speakers, he is “Christkind”; French-speakers call him “Le petit Jsus”; and he is “Gesu Bambino” to the Italian-speakers. In all three instances, the literal translation is “baby Jesus”.
Conversely, for French and Italian-speaking youngsters, Christmas in Switzerland comes late, using the main gift-giving not occurring until Epiphany – January 6. This more accurately reflects the timings of events at the birth of Christ, where the three wise men did not arrive until 12 days later.