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The Swiss Adventsfenster Tradition

In earlier posts, I've already introduced the Adventskranz (Advent Wreath) and the Adventskalender (Advent or Christmas Calendar) - two Swiss Christmas traditions that accompany us through advent by counting the days or weeks that are left until Christmas eve.

Another Swiss Christmas Tradition

Now, there is a third tradition during the Christmas season which includes the counting of the 24 first days of December: the Adventsfenster (Advent Windows). In contrary to the Advent Wreath and the Christmas Calendar which are family traditions and take place at home, this tradition takes place outside and is more a communal tradition.

Adventsfenster - Babajezas Wundertüte

Advent Windows - What are they?

The tradition of Adventsfenster is common mainly in smaller towns and villages of Switzerland, with maybe a few city neighborhoods joining in. The idea is that all over the village or neighborhood there are 24 people - mostly families and schools but also couples or even local businesses - who decorate one or more of their windows in a holiday theme. Each person is allocated one day between December 1st and December 24th.

During the decoration process and until a window is publicly revealed on its allocated day, the windows stay closed and the design hidden through the shutters. Designs usually include a combination of black paper for the different shapes and colorful dragon paper that will let light shine through from inside the room. The scene can depict anything from stars, animals, nativity scenes, angels, candles and more.

Then, every evening from December 1st to December 24th one window will be "opened" at a set time, usually around 6 or 7 pm. People are invited to gather in front of the house to watch how the shutters are opened and the picture is revealed. Many times music or a Christmas carol accompanies part of the meeting. Some people even offer a little snack like cookies or peanuts and a hot drink to the visitors. After a bit of chatting with the neighbors and friends, people return to their homes.

Once opened, the windows will stay lit every night until Christmas eve (and sometimes even longer) and in some communities, there is a tradition on Christmas eve to go see all 23 earlier Adventsfenster before heading to the final number 24 window.

The Adventsfenster are usually organized by a local club or institution but anyone can participate. By now, most slots will have been taken and the list of windows published in the local newspaper or dropped in your mailbox but sometimes there is an unexpected opening if you're interested in participating. In any case, if there are Adventsfenster in your area it's worth going to see at least a few of them - some are really stunning. Plus, it's also a good opportunity to mingle with neighbors and friends.



  1. Very interesting. Local traditions like Adventsfenster are not seen on many guidebooks. Just seeing the beautiful windows will be so nice!


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