Monday, December 6, 2010

St. Nicolas Day

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. :)


Anonymous said...

I like that healthy snack picture..tangerines, walnuts,peanuts..good stuff!
Yesterday we had our Sinterklaas day..
Have a happy new week :))

Ola said...

Here also Santa comes on 6th December but to kids only:( He is giving them some small gifts by putting them in their shoes or under the pillow, the bigger ones he leaves for 24th:)

Judy said...

I love your world. I learned something new today about Switzerland. What an interesting custom. I loved your husbands comment about the whipping.

Nancy said...

Hey, whatever works to keep those kids on the straight and narrow. (Just kidding.)

I think it's pretty cool to keep the old customs alive. Political correctness usually gets taken too far.

Southern Lady said...

What a great custom! When I used to teach school, my students did research for Christmas around the world. We actually ran across that bit of information...but we did not think that the man in black would actually whip the kids. Tell your husband that I am so glad that that was replaced with removal of internet access! That is just too funny! Thanks for sharing. Hope your children enjoy their special visit! Carla

Diane AZ said...

Fascinating to learn about St. Nicholas Day. The oranges, peanuts and chocolates look tempting. :)

Pam said...

Allison, I have read about that custom before but didn't believe a word of it. Just a little outdated thinking, is all there is to it.
Although I like the idea of peanuts, fruit and chocolate.. especially delectable Swiss Chocolate!

Happiness always,

Linda said...

Ever the peace loving man! I laughed so hard at your postscript, I could just see him leaning over with consternation furrowing his brow, "but Sweetie"....

Out on the prairie said...

We always got chocalate coins.I love the other customs, but do you share the cards like we do. In that case I am late, I haven't got but 3 out.

texwisgirl said...

This is in the same country that had the black cat waiting to snatch the mice that fell to the bottom row of "misbehavers" at the school, right?! I see a real pattern forming here... What ELSE has "the Russian" forbidden you to tell us about your 'savage' customs?! Ha! Internet access indeed... :)

Happy St. Nikolas day to all of you!! I have an orange in my fridge that I will eat today with you all in mind!

Evi said...

Mais quelle histoire. Dis, c'est vrai ce qui est arrivé à ta voisine? C'est vraiment une tradition débile. L'idée de Kurt est vraiment meilleure. Je viens d'ailleurs (avant de lire ton blog) de remettre un code accès sur l'ordi.
Sont pas en "good gold" ces gosses qui ne cessent de regarder des vacheries sur le net. Et j'en passe... ces maris qui doivent toujours s'informer du développement de la météo :D:D:D
D'ici quelques instants je vais travailler la pâte et avec Louis nous ferons de jolis "Gritibänz" a moin que ça ne donne des "Dinobänz" :D:D:D Je crois que j'aurai besoin du père fouettard :D:D:D Mince, c'que j'me marre.

Dawn said...

Ok....if I had "little kids" as I did years ago, I would be horrified. But now...I say bring him on. My teenagers need a good reminder...;)
Just kidding.
Glad they changed it from whipping to withholding internet;)))

Love learning about different customs and traditions....I do prefer Jolly (fat) Old St. Nick:)))

Have a wonderful new week Allison!

Allison said...

All your comments have made me giggle and shake with laughter today!

Evi, oui...cela c'est arrivé à Françoise ! Comment sont-ils venus ces dinobänz ? Les enfants trouvaient ça drôle comme tout !

Dawn, I told my teenager about your comment here! She rewarded me with a classic eye roll. Yay!)

Texwisgirl, there will most certainly be more revelations as time goes on. ;) There's a place set for you at the table, so come on over and join us!

Steve, I am totally behind on my Christmas cards. Nary a one out!

Linda, all I have to say is... you got that right! His expression was priceless.

Pam and Diane... there's enough of that chocolate for you, too, if you want to stop by!

Nancy, you made me shake with laughter.

Eyeliquor and Ola... it is so good to know you're on the same continent with all this madness! :D

Carla and Judy, I'd bring you each a little bread man if I could. No, no... I'd have the kids bring them and sing you a little Christmas jingle!

Hugs to ya'll!

Meg said...

How terrifying! Does he really, truly, put children in his sack and run off with them? I would be so mortified! I like your version of Santa much better than the American version though. Less presents to deal with, and he feeds you rather than you feeding him!

teca said...

I'm very happy to come here and read what you tell us differently... how your life is interesting... I love your photos, your life stories...
Happy the person who lives next to you!
Cheers to you!

We don't celebrate this date in Brasil, only Christmas.

Thank you for sharing this beautiful day!

Kiss with love.

Country Mouse Studio said...

thank goodness, they've updated that custom. Can you get a photo of the little bread men?

Randy said...

Interesting post about St Nicolas and I too love the last photo with all the snacks.

Buttons said...

Oh I love this and no whipping just taking away the internet is a big step forward. Your husband is funny.
I like your traditions better than some I have seen. We celebrate the Canadian way Christmas morning and the Dutch way on Christmas Eve, my husbands family was from Holland. My children have always enjoyed that. B