I have had to get used to having Santa visit on the 6th of December and coming on foot with a donkey and wooden cart to hand out little bread men, oranges, peanuts and chocolate (this is Switzerland, folks) rather than with dashing sleigh and eight reindeer to bring presents down a chimney and eat cookies and milk! My first reaction was... What? A skinny Santa? Ugh!
My second reaction was of more consequence... What? Le Père Fouettard? A Whipping Santa? Double ugh!
Swiss legend has it that this man in black accompanies St. Nicolas as he makes his rounds. He asks parents whether their children have been good or bad, and in the event that they've had a long year and are frazzled by their children's typically childlike behavoir, haven't slept in ages, and answer that no, their babes have not been good, Père Fouettard will snatch them up, plop them in his black sack and carry them off to the forest to whip them. Don't believe me? Ask my neighbor. At the age of 46, she's still upset over having been carried down the street in his black bag. Tell me, what are these people thinking?
The Whipper has never been to my house, but I can tell you that when he asked me if my children had been good I was quick to nod my terrified head... "Good as gold!"
Tonight an ordinary Santa may just ring a bell outside our door; the children will sing songs and recite Christmas poems for him, which he will duly reward with presents!
We will bake Gritibenz (sweet bread men) in the afternoon and load the table with peanuts and oranges, colorful chocolates and molasses.
Welcome to my bicultural world!
P.S. My husband read this post at lunch time and he says to tell you all out there in blog land that Switzerland does not condone whipping children! (I think it stressed him a little to have the custom revealed! He says they've replaced whipping with a withholding of internet access. :)