St. Nicholas’s Day in Switzerland

Here in Switzerland they celebrate St. Nicholas’s Day. St. Nicholas and Santa Claus are two completely different individuals. St. Nicholas is the guy who comes on the evening of December 5th and leaves chocolate coins in the children’s shoes along with a note about how their behavior has been so far. He’s kind of the guy who is strict and whips the kids into shape. Santa Claus is the nice guy who bring the presents.

However, St. Nicholas gets what’s coming to him for being so mean to the poor, innocent children!  At the end of the month, the children of Basel line up on the street and chuck coal at some poor sod who’s been promised a year’s worth of beer for running around the streets of Basel wearing a mortarboard that every child has made his or her personal mission to knock off with the coal. And a group of men run after “St. Nick” with branches of some kind of conifer and beat him with them if the mortarboard gets knocked off.

I am told there are often medics waiting at the end to treat his lacerations.

No word on if he has to take all that beer home right away. Or even how much beer the Swiss feel constitutes “a year’s worth.”

And there will be pictures. Oh, yes, there will be.

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