The true story of Santa Claus begins with Nicholas whose day we celebrate today December 6th. Occasion for a joyous celebration in my home country Switzerland. St. Nicholaus -or Samichlaus as he is called in Lucerne where I am from- was born during the third century in the village of Patara, on the coast in Turkey. Nicholaus was from a wealthy family and when his parents died young he used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships. On December 5th, the eve of St. Nicolas Day, villages around Lake Lucerne glow with the light of hundreds of enormous, heavy paper-cut bishops‘ miter/hats, iffele, paraded through the streets by men and boys in white robes. The headpieces are artistically designed, intricately cut out of cardboard, and lit by a candle within. Theiffelen, from three to six feet tall, have been made for over 100 years. Each is a unique piece of art.
When St. Nicholaus visits homes, he may be accompanied by Schmutzlis. He goes over a list of the good and bad things the children have done. Good children receive candies, nuts and mandarines.
While St. Nicholaus brings Candies, nuts and mandarines, families celebrate his day by baking Grittibänze, a delicious sweet bread formed into darling little bread men and women
Bake your own Grittibänz , get creative and enjoy this joyous time of the year! Happy Samichlaus!