St. Nicholas Day in Switzerland & Central Europe
A popular tradition for the whole family
December 6th is St. Nicholas Day and in many European countries, it is considered an integral part of the run-up to Christmas. In Switzerland families get together on St. Nicholas Day and take part in the local St. Nicholas parade, they also make little surprise gifts for each other - especially the children. Other countries have their very own customs around St. Nicholas Day - from ancient traditions to more modern events.
St. Nicholas - old tradition
The tradition of giving treats such as nuts, gingerbread, oranges and small gifts on the 6th December was dedicated Saint Nicholas to honour him for his good deeds. St. Nicholas was the Bishop of Myra, who was considered particularly merciful in the 4th century AD. He was known for helping the poor by giving them food and clothing during the cold season.
Santa Claus poems, gingerbread and chocolate - the traditional Santa Claus day in Switzerland
St. Nicholas Day is a family day in Switzerland. It’s a time for families or friends to come together to drink coffee or have dinner together. In some families, Santa Claus’s assistant "Schmutzli" even comes to visit in person. Then a poem "Samichlaus-Versli" is recited by the children and in return they receive nuts, mandarins, chocolate and small gifts from Santa’s sack. Santa Claus also tells the children what they did well during the year and what did not go so well - but the educational side of this tradition is not as popular as it once was. On St Nicholas day, Santa Claus gives presents mainly to the children, but the adults also like to give each other little gifts. Personalised gifts for family members are becoming more and more popular.
Freshly cleaned boots and the chocolate Santa Claus in Germany
In Germany Santa Claus visits secretly, quietly, and silently in the night of the sixth of December and fills children’s freshly polished boots with treats and small gifts. The custom of polishing boots goes back to Santa's educational message. The children show Santa with how well-behaved they have been by leaving freshly polished boots in front of the door, and the children are rewarded by them being filled with treats. We mustn’t forget the custom of chocolate Santa Clauses. It’s mainly for children, but many adults still keep the custom going and ‘surprise’ themselves with chocolates and gifts on the morning of the 6th.
Santa Claus and his ‘Krampus’ in Austria, Hungary and the Czech Republic
While Santa Claus visits with his assistant "Schmutzli" in Switzerland, in Austria, Hungary, and the Czech Republic, it is the half-goat, half-demon horned character called the "Krampus". The Krampus is a companion of Santa Claus: While Santa rewards well-behaved children with goodies, the creepy Krampus aims to scare the naughty children into being good. On the eve of St. Nicholas' Day, the Krampuses parade through the streets scaring people with big bells.
"Pakjesavond" – a ‘gift evening’ for St. Nicholas in the Netherlands
In the Netherlands, "Sinterklaas" (Santa Claus) keeps detailed notes about the children’s behaviour and rewards the good ones with gifts. The whole family celebrates St. Nicholas Day with "Pakjesavond" - the gift evening. This takes place on the fifth of December on the eve of St. Nicholas Day. After dark, “Sinterklaas” gives a quick knock on the door to let people know that he has left a sack of presents in front of the door. He is away before any children can catch a glimpse of the elusive “Sinterklaas”. He also leaves small presents for the adults. Many families without children, friends or colleagues often modify the custom a little: They gift each other artistically wrapped “Surprise” presents - similar to the Secret Santa. Each present has a "Sinterklaasgedicht" (Santa Klaus Poem) that describes the recipient in a funny manner. This must be read aloud before the gift can be opened.
Gift ideas for St. Nicholas Day
Gift a Photo Book with premium photo paper
Give your loved ones a special treat of a Photo Book deigned by yourself this St. Nicholas Day. Create a high-quality Photo Book with a collection of your most beautiful family experiences, for example, add photos of all the fun from the past St. Nicholas Days. The special binding allows you to display a double-page photo without a fold. You also have the option of ordering your Photo Book in a stylish gift box.
Personalised SIGG drinking bottle for Santa Claus
A perfect gift for young and old: Surprise your loved ones with a personalised drinking bottle in a Santa’s sack. Design one for your child with a photo of yourself or perhaps their favourite animal. Add a great family photo, and the SIGG drinking bottle makes the perfect St. Nicolas gift for your partner, parents, or grandparents.
Christmas invitation cards for the Santa Claus dinner
Do you want to bring your loved ones together to celebrate on St. Nicholas Day? Create a real buzz about the festive season by designing this year’s Christmas invitations with your own photos. You can either print or handwrite your invitation text on the inside or back of the card.