One of the loveliest things about having a little one (other than not being in gainful employment and dressing her in animal-themed outfits) is building family traditions together. We can’t wait until she’s old enough for Easter Egg hunts (and Easter Nests, my family tradition where you tart up a box and fill it with shredded paper in which, on Easter Sunday, the Easter Bunny lays its delicious chocolate eggs. Yeah, I am aware there are lots of flaws with this concept but it apparently kept us quiet), camping trips, hopefully our annual ‘sisters October long weekend’ (a dismal failure after only one installation) and of course Christmas, the latter made even more exciting by her birthday occurring five days prior.
Last year’s Christmas Day was surreal. She was five days old and we were shell shocked. We’d left the hospital two days previously, unsure why we were allowed to leave with a small human who we didn’t know or know what to do with, and we’d barely slept or eaten since (nor had she, due to a undiagnosed sucking problem and tongue / lip tie). My best friend – her Guidefather – was hosting a Christmas lunch which we’d made tentative plans to attend, depending on whether we were coping or not. If it was anyone else in the world I would have cancelled and eaten frozen lasagne seasoned with my own tears however we put her in the car seat for the second time ever and made our way across town for a lovely lunch with very tolerant friends. That afternoon, both sets of grandparents arrived at our place with the fixings for Christmas dinner but by then things had deteriorated. She was hungry and couldn’t feed, and it was anything but a silent night as Tim and I sat at one end of the house with a screaming baby while our folks ate their dinner and cleaned our kitchen at the other. In the midst of the newborn haze, all festive cheer was forgotten.
This year we’re hoping to make up for it. Christmas has definitely descended on Lucerne. The town is lit up with sparkly lights that reflect across the lake. The old town’s fountains are dressed up – some as advent wreaths, some as candles, some with nativity scenes. There’s a building that has turned its windows into an advent calendar. There are Christmas markets, with a scented cloud of spices and wurst hovering above them. There’s an outdoor iceskating rink next to the lake, surrounded by glittering fir trees, with carols drifting through the chilly winter air. There are glühwein stands everywhere (I enjoyed a cup while doing my grocery shopping earlier this evening, only spilling a small amount on the baby). I love it here.
Today is St Niklaus Day, which in Switzerland is the day that the dude we know as Santa visits (it’s the Christkind aka the Christchild aka Baby Jesus who delivers the gifts on Christmas Eve). Here, though, Santa is known as Samichlaus and he does not come alone. He has a trusty sidekick, dressed in a black coat sporting a beard and carrying a bundle of sticks, named Schmutzli. The dynamic duo fly no deer but trudge through the snow with a donkey and visit nervous children to determine whether they have been good or not. If they have, the children traditionally receive nuts, gingerbread and tangerines (and more recently, small toys) from jolly Samichlaus’ bulging sack; if not, they are beaten with surly Schmutzli’s sticks and kidnapped in his empty sack. Children recite a poem (not an option for our girl, whose language skills extend to calling everything electronic ‘Dad’. Given how nerdy Tim is that’s unsurprising I guess, but does not make for good poetry recitals) and promise to be good for the following year. Kids put their boots outside the door on the night prior to St Niklaus Day, and hope for treats.
Despite not being in the position to beg repentance for all those sleepless nights, our cowgirl decided to try her luck.
She must have been good, because there was no beating and no kidnapping, and instead a ridiculous pair of snowman tights that will be worn every day this silly season.
Of course, bright and early this morning, I was a little more excited than she was about our overnight visitors, but she nonetheless rose to the occasion. She tried her first gingerbread (a sugar fuelled success, of course) and smashed her best fruit, a tangerine, for breakfast. And those tights went on immediately.
We’ve got a road trip to Germany today and I suspect will live to regret dosing her up on refined sugar this early, however it’s her first St Nick’s Day, so what could we do? Get behind the sugary Christmas spirit, is what.
Another Swiss tradition is that Christmas trees get put up on Christmas Eve (along with gift giving and, apparently, fondue bourguignon). For a Christmas enthusiast that felt a little drawn out; I was delighted, then, to wake one morning to find my own Samichlaus delight.
A few branches found in the bin room (he insists subsequently washed), some lights from home and on the top a happy character made out of afore mentioned snowman tights packaging and voila: a pre-tree tree courtesy of McMotsy. I actually screeched with Christmas delight, and Laidey has been feasting on the fronds ever since. At least they are sugar free, and road trip friendly.