Sunday, December 06, 2009

St Nicholas and the old man with spread legs

Today, we can celibate St Nicholas (Nicholas of Myra, Patron Saint of children). St Nicholas is popularly called Samichlaus in the German-speaking part of Switzerland. He appears not on Christmas Eve or Day, but on December 6. Samichlaus is accompanied by a character called Schmutzli on his visits to children.

On his visits, Samichlaus reviews the children's behaviour since his last visit. Dressed in red, he reads their good and bad deeds out of a big book. Schmutzli is dressed in black and his job is to be Samichlaus' executioner. Schmutzli carries both a cane and a big sack filled with mandarins, nuts and chocolate.

If the children behaved well, they are given some goodies out of sack, however, if not, their butt might get to know the cane or if they were really bad, Schmutzli might even put them into sack and take them back to the dark forest. To prevent this fate, the children try to pacify Samichlaus at the beginning of the visit by reciting chumming verses.

I don't expect Toño to have ordered Samichlaus for later today to review my last year's behaviour. Nevertheless, he got us a Grittibänz each.

I have no idea why, but this kind of man shaped bread is also eaten on this day. If you follow the etymological roots of the name Grittibänz, it translates to old man with spread legs. Whatever, they are really scrumptious.


Daniel said...

Thanks for the lesson in your tradition.
Honestly, doesn't these bread guys look a little... stabbed? Are you sure these in fact aren't voodoo dolls in disguise?? Just a thought. ;)


Gauss Jordan said...

They look a little phallic as well.

Interesting tradition! Are those ltitle knitted scarves?