Samichlaus (St. Nicholas) Day

I hope you have all been good little glampers this year. Otherwise Schmutzli will take you away in his bag, and who knows what will happen to you then!

In many European countries, Dec. 6 is a traditional date for St. Nicholas to visit. In German-speaking Switzerland, as I have gleaned from the internet (especially this blog post read here), St. Nicholas, called Samichlaus here, will visit children with his sidekick Schmutzli (from the German word schmutz which means dirty). If the children have been good, they will get gifts of peanuts, mandarines, walnuts, lebkuchen, and chocolates. If they have been not quite so good, they will need to recite a poem to Samichlaus, or the brown-robed and hooded dirty-faced character will put the children in his bag and kidnap them.

Since I do not have young children, I did not have a perfect opportunity to meet Mr. Chlaus today, but I saw several of his incarnations out and about. Here he is reaching into his bag in front of a grocery store for the child who is there. No Schmutzli, though. Apparently the darker side of Christmas makes rarer appearances these days.


At the train station though, this yellow-robed Samichlaus is talking to his traditional sidekick.


In Austria (as well as southern Germany, and some eastern European countries) the character who accompanies St. Nicholas is called Krampus. He is more of a beast with horns than a dirty monk. When I left Austria in 1980, it was Dec. 6 and my host family gave me a Krampus made out of an apple and figs and other dried fruit that I carried with me for a few days before I ate him.

As for the pronunciation of Samichlaus, click here. The ch is a special sound in Swiss German…


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