Monday, December 2, 2013

December Is Here!

In honour of the darkened days, the chilly weather and being in the midst of the holiday season I thought I would post some Christmas cards that I've been working on as well as a few tidbits about how Christmas is celebrated in other parts of the world.

Today's card features...


I decided to start with Switzerland mostly because I have fond memories of my visit there (ages ago!) and it seems like it lends itself very well to winter wonderland kind of environments. I was only there in the summer when it was very warm and green, but when I think of Switzerland I usually envision frosty midnight blue skies speckled with stars, hanging over steep snowy peaks with cosy little villages tucked in high valleys, their golden glowing lights barely visible through the trees and the smells of pine and woodsmoke in the air. If you listen closely you can just hear the carol singers practicing in the little church accompanied by the faint sound of sleigh bells.

Here are some tidbits I learned about Christmas traditions in Switzerland.  The holiday season really kicks off with the start of Advent (the fourth Sunday before Christmas Eve). Most of us are familiar with Advent calendars, a kind of large rectangular card with 24 windows and each day you open one window to reveal a treat, usually chocolates or a small toy. Growing up I never had one of my own, but I do remember that my friend next door had one every Christmas and she would sometimes let me do the honour of opening one of the windows. I can recall thinking how wonderful it was to have something to not only count down all the days leading up to Christmas, but also how delightful it was to get a delicious treat every single day to boot! On the rare occasion I was able to open one of the days I took my role very seriously and with great solemnity I would lift the flap ultra carefully so as not to tear it. I realise how common they are nowadays, but when I was little it was quite the rare and precious object to me. 

Also it seems that, depending on what part of the country you live in, the gifts will either be provided by the Christkind (essentially the baby Jesus) or Samichlaus, who is a Santa-like figure that carries a bag filled with mandarin oranges, nuts, cookies, and other gifts. He is accompanied by a dark figure known as Schmutzli who carries a bag of gifts and these gifts are deposited in the shoes and stockings of good girls and boys.

Traditionally the Swiss eat fondue only in the wintertime. They say that fondue is good and puts you in a good mood when you eat it. 
Here is an authentic traditional Swiss fondue recipe.
I also found this recipe for a Swiss gingerbread cookie called Lebkuchen. 

They look so yummy as I am not super big cookie person, but I do enjoy a good gingerbread one!

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