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In the Light of Turnip Lanterns

It's been a beautiful fall this year. Now, the leaves have fallen from the trees and the days are getting shorter and shorter. It's once more the season of cozy evenings by the fire or hot punch on the ice skating rink. Traditionally, these first days of winter mark the beginning of the Christmas season in Switzerland . It also the time when the traditional turnip lantern processions, which we call ' Räbeliechtliumzug'  in Swiss German, take place. As soon as it gets dark, kindergarten and primary school kids walk around town with lanterns called ' Räbeliechtli'  which they carved from turnips. And no, this is not a Swiss version of Halloween despite the obvious similarities. Let me explain. Räbeliechtli Origins of Räbeliechtli The tradition of making lanterns from turnips has its origins in the celebration of the last harvest of the year. Turnips were amongst the last vegetables harvested and I assume that is why they were originally chosen for th
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It's Time to Bake Swiss Christmas Cookies

Swiss Christmas Cookies - Joujou  / pixelio.de It's that time of the year again, Christmas season is upon us. And even though this year's holidays will probably affected by more or less strict Covid-19 restrictions, it's still a season to rejoice and celebrate Christ's birth with family and friends. Christmas Season Joys Christmas eve is still a month away and with it the family get-together (if Covid restrictions allow for it!), the good food and the gifts. However, in Switzerland, there are many things that we enjoy throughout the Christmas season. I'm thinking of advent wreaths ,   christmas calendars  and advent windows to mark the time until Christmas eve, making a gingerbread house , doing some candle dipping , enjoying some hot glow wine and much more. However, the most typical Christmas activity in Switzerland - and one that songwriter Andrew Bond eternalized in his most famous Christmas song - is baking Swiss Christmas cookies! Typical Swiss Christmas Co

Where to go for your 1st of August Brunch

1st of August - Edith O.  / pixelio.de In just a few days, Switzerland will celebrate 1st of August . This day became an official Swiss national holiday in 1891 and commemorates the signing of the Bundesbrief , a letter declaring union between the three regions of Uri, Schwyz and Nidwalden, that took place in the beginning of August 1291. The celebrations for the Swiss national holiday on 1st of August usually include a speech by the president, fireworks, lampion processions, bonfires on mountain ridges called Höhenfeuer ('high fires') and lots of good Swiss food. Many people capitalize on this free day to enjoy an especially large (and late) breakfast, a typical 1st of August brunch , either at home or at one of the many farms that offer this Swiss staple on their premises. What Food is served at a Swiss 1st of August Brunch? A Swiss brunch isn't all that different from a usual Swiss  'Zmorge' (breakfast)  but it usually includes not only more food and more varie

Hiking in Switzerland after Corona

Hiking in the mountains - berggeist007  / pixelio.de  While other parts of the world are still struggling to contain the Covid-19 outbreak, Switzerland is on it's way back to normality. While the lockdown in Switzerland never has been as severe as in other countries, being forced to slow down, stay at home a lot and reduce social contacts hasn't been an easy thing for many people.  What saved many people from lockdown cabin fever was that there was never a general prohibition for outdoor activities . As long as you stuck to the safety recommendations it was perfectly fine to go for a walk in the forest with your family, ride your bike around Lake Zurich or hike one of the thousands of hiking trails in Switzerland . Definitely a smart decision! Hiking in Switzerland after Corona While you could always go hiking, it wasn't always easy or even possible to get to your desired hiking spot. Public transportation was limited and ALL mountain railways (including cable cars and ch

Quarantine Art

At the moment, most of the world's population is under obligations to stay home as much as possible. Some countries (try to) enforce very strict rules that include complete lockdown on certain days and hours (e.g. Peru, Italy) - other countries don't want to give up on the last bit of freedom for their citizens and still allow people to go for a walk or run if they adhere to social distancing rules (e.g. Switzerland).  Now, while the second approach seems to be the more humane and probably one that can be endured better for a long period of time - we're speaking of months now - there are countries that argue they cannot go this path. One, their health systems would be overwhelmed and two, their cities are extremely crowded and population generally don't adhere to rules so social distancing in practice wouldn't be applied thoroughly enough. Peru is one of those countries with strict rules, lots of detentions for breaking them and is only just now entering th

How to Say "Child" in Swiss German

Children - S. Hofschaeger  / pixelio.de Over the last few years of blogging here on 'A Humorous Guide to Switzerland', I've written quite a few posts on language in Switzerland with a special focus on my native Swiss German. As a native speaker, there are few words I don't understand and rarely do I encounter a word I don't know but once in a while this is exactly what happens. If I'd tried to characterize my Swiss German dialect , I would probably say it's a mixture of Aargauerdütsch and Züridütsch, both dialects of the northern region of Switzerland called 'Mittelland' (lit. middle land). I understand most of the other Swiss German dialects, with the exception of Walliserdütsch (Valais Swiss German), but if I stumble upon an unknown Swiss German word it is almost always from a dialect different from my own. A New Swiss German Word Last time I came upon a surprising Swiss German word was last summer in Basel . I was enjoying a day i

How to Make a Swiss Gingerbread House

The Christmas season in Switzerland is just around the corner and soon people will be busy baking and eating Christmas cookies , practicing their poems for Santa's visit , getting ready their Christmas calendars and Advent wreaths, buying or making gifts and generally enjoy the holiday season. Different Swiss Christmas Traditions Although there are some Swiss Christmas traditions that most people observe - e.g. Swiss Santa or Christmas Calendars - each family also has their very own tradition of how Christmas should be celebrated. Some people will go to church on Christmas eve while others prefer to celebrate at home, for example. Some read the Christmas story, others simply enjoy family time and the exchanging of gifts. Also, the food served on Christmas eve varies from household to household. A Swiss classic for Christmas eve is Fondue Chinoise  where you cook meat and vegetables in broth in a shared pot right at the table but by now almost anything goes. Swiss Chris

Candle Dipping is a Thing in Switzerland

Beeswax candles - Moni Sertel  / pixelio.de Candle dipping is a thing in Switzerland . This statement about the Swiss tradition of 'Kerzenziehen' in a blog post called ' These Swiss Christmas Traditions surprised me ' stuck with me for a moment. Growing up in Switzerland I never thought about it much, ' Kerzenziehen ', which means 'candle pulling' or 'candle dipping', was just what it was. After thinking it over, I realize that maybe it really is a bit odd and definitely unexpected to someone who is used to quite different Christmas traditions. Candle Dipping Traditions of my Childhood During my childhood, candle dipping was simply part of the Christmas season and an activity in which most families of our village took part. A small group of people organized the candle dipping event in a barn or in a school building. In addition to the actual Kerzenziehen there was usually seasonal food like Christmas cookies, hot punch or Glühwein . I