A Look at Celebrating Christmas in Switzerland

by | Dec 25, 2021 | Events, Festivals, Food

Christmas tree in Switzerland

During Small Town Holidays, Mountain View Lodge was excited to participate in Holidays Around the World. Businesses around the Chelan Valley were invited to feature holiday foods, drinks, events, crafts, and traditions from their chosen country. The idea was for people visiting each establishment to learn about how other countries celebrate as they make their way through each business. We picked Switzerland and wanted to share some of what we learned with you!

The Story of Samichlaus (The Santa Claus of Switzerland)


The Swiss celebrate Christmas in a very different way than many other countries. Samichlaus is a Swiss Santa Claus with a long history dating back to the 14th century. He was known initially as St. Nicholas, and he would visit children on December sixth to bring them presents. 

Eventually, Samichlaus became his separate figure, and now he visits children on December sixth AND December eleventh. On the eleventh, he gives presents to children who have been good all year long. On the sixth, however, Samichlaus eats a feast with his family and friends in honor of St. Nicholas’ Day before beginning his annual journey worldwide to bring gifts to children everywhere!



Gluhwein is a warm and delicious drink that has become popular during the Christmas season in Switzerland. It is traditionally served at holiday markets and sold by street vendors, who keep it simmering in large pots over open fires or gas burners so people can enjoy this comforting beverage throughout their stay. These festive gatherings usually take place in town squares, in front of churches, or other public spaces. Visitors can also find Gluhwein stands on sledding hills and ski resorts where people gather to enjoy their drinks by the fire after a day on the slopes.

Christmas Cookies

Christmas cookies

In Switzerland, Christmas cookie baking is a tradition that families cherish. This is because so many different types of cookies can be made, from classic favorites like gingerbread and speculaas to more regional treats like bûche de Noël and zimtsterne.

One of the most popular types of Swiss Christmas cookies is the kind that are made with almond paste. These cookies are usually shaped into stars, hearts, or other festive designs!

Another type of cookie that is commonly made during Christmastime in Switzerland is the gingerbread man. People of all ages love this classic treat, and it’s a great way to get into the Christmas spirit.

Finally, no discussion of Swiss Christmas cookies would be complete without mentioning zimtsterne. These delicious cinnamon stars are a must-have for any winter gathering, and they always go quickly! Here’s a great Swiss zimtsterne recipe for you to try at home!

So, if you’re looking for some new and exciting cookie recipes to try out this year, check out some of the Christmas classics of Switzerland.

Lighting Candles & Räbeliechtli

Christmas candles

Christmas is a special time in Switzerland. The air is chilly, and the streets are lit up with Christmas lights. Candles are placed in windows, on doorsteps, and around Christmas trees. They symbolize light and hope during the winter months.

The tradition of lighting candles during Christmas is a centuries-old tradition. It began to welcome Mary and Joseph into people’s homes. Candles are also seen as symbols of hope and peace. They remind us that there is always light waiting to be found.

Räbeliechtli is a significant part of Christmas in Switzerland, too. It’s a tradition that dates back centuries, and it’s always a lot of fun to participate in the celebrations.


The name Räbeliechtli comes from the German word “Raabe,” which means raven, and the Swiss word “liecht” which means light. Together, they form the word “Räbeliechtli.”

The tradition of Räbeliechtli is believed to have started in the Middle Ages when people would light candles and carry them through the streets to celebrate Christmas. The candles were meant to represent the light of Jesus Christ.

Today, the tradition of Räbeliechtli is still prevalent in Switzerland. Many families get together to celebrate, and everyone has a lot of fun. In addition, there are usually parades or processions where people carry lanterns made from paper or cardboard.

Räbeliechtli is a fun and festive part of Christmas in Switzerland, and it’s a tradition that everyone can enjoy. 



Fondue is a traditional Swiss dish eaten during Christmas. It is made of melted cheese and served with bread cubes. Yum!

The tradition of eating fondue during Christmas began in the canton of Fribourg in the 18th century. Fondue is considered a symbol of unity, as it brings people together around the table. Fondue is also a combination of “Fondo” and “vola,” which means to fly in the air or go up into heaven. This reflects fondue as bringing people together from all walks of life during Christmas time.

Advent Calendar Party!

Advent calendar

A traditional Swiss celebration is to have an Advent party during the Christmas season. This tradition dates centuries, and many Swiss people will stop at nothing to celebrate it.

An advent party is where you gather with your family or friends around a table decorated for Wintertime – usually after dark during winter months – on either the first Sunday of December or the first Sunday of November.

You will usually have a lot of delicious food, everyone brings something to share, and you light candles to make it feel very festive. Advent parties are also great for people who don’t celebrate Christmas together much during the year but love each other deeply to get closer around this particular time. It is often a time for sharing memories and warming each other’s hearts.

Advent parties are also necessary because they mark the beginning of the Advent period, where people stop to contemplate what Christmas means. Commonly, churches hold special services or events with music, readings from scripture, prayers, and processions to celebrate the beginning of this special time. These events make people feel closer to God, and they help them remember what Christmas is about: giving, love, and family.

Baby Jesus, Befana, and the Three Kings

Three kings

One of Switzerland’s traditions and celebrations, especially in the Italian region of Ticino, includes baby Jesus’ cribs (cribi de Gesù) found within nativity scenes (presepi).

Many churches or chapels have their crib as part of their nativity scene, and they are decorated with objects made of straw or wood. People visit these cribs during Christmas time to pray for good health and prosperity throughout the following year.

There is also a tradition called ‘Cantando il Natale’ (Christmas caroling), where people go out into town dressed up as shepherds, angels, or Wise Men to sing Christmas carols. This is a popular activity for families and friends during December.

Befana is an essential part of Christmas celebrations in Switzerland as well. It is widely celebrated during the holiday season and brings gifts to children on January sixth, previously Epiphany day.

The tradition of celebrating Befana is thought to have originated from the story of the three kings who followed a star to Bethlehem. Some believe that Befana was one of the wise women who visited baby Jesus in the manger, and she has been celebrated ever since as a bringer of good luck and gifts. She is often depicted as an old woman riding on a broomstick, and her arrival is greeted with much excitement by children. In some parts of Italy, it is customary for people to set a plate of food and drink out for Befana on the night of January fifth if she stops by for a visit!


Starting on Christmas Day and finishing on New Year’s Eve, the Swiss will partake in the ‘Trychle’ wearing a big cow bell or beating drums. The storied celebration is to make a ton of noise and ward off evil spirits!

Check Out Switzerland’s Holiday Traditions at The Lodge

We’ve learned so much from celebrating Switzerland’s Christmas traditions here at Mountain View Lodge. This winter, check out our decorated lobby to learn more and even try a few treats when you stay with us. If you’re lucky, your room could have an Advent party when you arrive! Give us a call at (509) 687-9505 or book online to experience the magic of the holiday season in Lake Chelan.

As the Swiss say, Schoni Weihnachte, Joyeux Noel, Buon Natale, or Bellas festas da Nadal!