Can you believe it’s almost the end of 2016? I hardly had time to adapt to writing 2016 and in just three weeks I will have to get used to writing 2017!
The pre-Christmas season is filled with various winter and religious traditions – amongst them St. Nicholas day. In our neck of the woods we call Santa “Samichlaus”, and he visited us yesterday – on December 6th, as always.
Snow? In our dreams! This is an older picture and not taken yesterday.
We had quite a warm spell in November. Oh well....
But where does this practice actually originate? The day commemorates St. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, and the cult is already delectable in the 6th century. Italian merchants transferred the relics of the Saint to Bari in 1087, and the devotion to him spread throughout the Western world. Nicholas became the patron of countless churches and professional categories such as boatmen, bakers, merchants, students, lawyers and even prisoners.
In the middle ages, a children’s Bishop appeared in monastery and cathedral schools on 6 December to question the children about their behaviour and subsequently presented them gifts.
The custom became popular and was carried out more and more in private households as well. The children prepared themselves for the visit by learning prayers and carving them onto wood plates. They put these plates next to the entrance as well as straw, hay and oats for the donkey of St. Nicholas.
The tradition has evolved to vastly different celebrations all over the World, and it is even celebrated in different ways from region to region in Switzerland.
Santa still appears as a Bishop in Catholic areas. The Mitres inspired also the custom of the magnificent light mitres (Iffeln – large illuminated lanterns). They are worn as headdress, for example in “Küssnacht am Rigi” (on Lake Lucerne), but also by the Santa’s in Wollishofen (a Zürich community).
Klausjagen (chasing Santas) in "Küssnacht am Rigi"
In protestant areas Santa has become a primeval, bearded man with a jute bag filled with nuts, chocolate and fruits and a wicker rod as a reminder for misbehaving children. He lives in the woods, and when he visits the children he is accompanied by Schmutzli, his helper in black attire and with a black face. The donkey carries the bag.
Now this is a photo made yesterday - my best friend Estherwas visited by Santa and his helper.
And as you can see, not a flake of snow on the street, and that in Davos at an
elevation of 1560 metres (5118 ft).
Whatever you celebrate in these days leading up to the New Year, I wish you a contemplative and relaxing time and only the very best!