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How do you celebrate Christmas?

Posted On December 22, 2015 by admin

When I was a child living in the greater Zurich area in Switzerland, Christmas was preceded by months filled with the most wonderful and exciting moments. I remember the catalogue of Franz Carl Weber toy store arriving in the mail. It was one of the highlights of the year. I would spend hours making lists writing down my favorite toys sometimes cutting out the pictures and sticking them in a specially created album for “Christkind”. Come December 24 – we always celebrated on the 24th and never on the 25th – I would stare at the gifts laid out under the tree for hours until the magic words were finally spoken by my mother. “We will now open the gifts.” That day seemed to always last forever with me trying to figure out, what could be in all the different boxes and parcels under the sparkling tree. So what a relief to hear those words.

My parents were also very good at prolonging the run-up to the unwrapping of gifts by cooking, eating and drinking longer and more than usual. I did not understand that. I mean on any other day yes, but on Christmas day? The usual Christmas meal consisted of “Chüngel” (bunny) on red wine sauce with carrots and mash. My grandfather bred rabbits and one of the poor creatures ended up in my mother’s pots every year for Christmas.

The actual opening of gifts was closely observed by my mom. There was a certain way to unwrap the paper without tearing it. She neatly folded all the wrapping paper and kept it in a box to later re-use – recycling par excellence! After all gifts were distributed, marveled at, played with and ticked off on the wish list I usually passed out on my dad’s lap. My most exciting day of the year and next Christmas only a year away…

When I then lived in Cape Town, South Africa Christmas was entirely different. There was no bunny but “Braai” (South African for BBQ). The temperatures were in the region of 40 degrees and the preferred place to celebrate Christmas was wherever there was a swimming pool. We regularly ended up in Prince Albert, a small farming town in the “Klein Karoo”, a very arid and mountainous area known for its huge population of sheep and ostrich. The Christmas celebrations took place at the farm of some relatives, where not only the Cape Town based crowd would arrive on Dec. 23 but also the Pretoria based part of the clan. Complete with 4×4, offroad trailer(s), rubber duck (inflatable boat) and rooftop tent.

The Christmas tree was usually a part of a thorn bush (thorns were 5 – 6 cm long and went right through the soles of your shoes if stepped on). I remember one time, when Father Christmas (no Christkind in South Africa) arrived in an old Ford F250 pickup truck with a bunch of presents on the back. My then three year old son running around (the Braai) in a Spiderman outfit and his cousin “unwrapping” a gift, which was cemented into a mud brick (a creative way of not having to buy wrapping paper in rural areas in Africa…). The Christmas meal consisted of lamb chops, Boerewors (sausage) rolls, frozen pea salad and ice cream. Every once in a while the party was interrupted by highly poisonous snakes (Puffadders and Cobra’s) or Scorpions. They obviously didn’t like all the commotion and loud music and tried to find a more peaceful spot by making their way across the lawn.

Now in 2015 and back in Switzerland I hope for some of the same excitement for my children as experienced by me as a kid.

How do you celebrate Christmas? If Switzerland is not your home country, do you celebrate differently here than at home? We love to hear from you either in a comment to this blog or on our Facebook page. Merry Christmas from all of us at Switzerland Relo.

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