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Bizarre Swiss Christmas Traditions #5: Edible gingerbread trees

Next in our series on odd Swiss Christmas traditions we go to Appenzell Innerrhoden, Switzerland’s smallest canton.

Bizarre Swiss Christmas Traditions #5: Edible gingerbread trees

Appenzell Innerrhoden’s isolation has meant it is home to some of Switzerland’s oldest and most unique traditions – including an edible gingerbread Christmas tree. 

This does not mean however that the Swiss have found a way to slice and dice your traditional pine or fir Tannenbaum – the edible structure is instead made out of gingerbread. 

In living rooms in Appenzell Innerrhoden, in addition to a traditional Tannenbaum, you’ll likely find a beautifully decorated gingerbread tower called a Chlausezüüg. Between these “Bickli” hang white “Devisli” made of egg white and sugar dough.

These elaborate pyramid-like structures were once completely edible, down to a centre baked with a highly secret bread recipe. 

However, nowadays most people use a wooden frame to attach the Chlausebickli, or the intricately adorned gingerbread panels.



But good luck trying to make remake this tradition yourself: The recipes for every part of the tower are kept secret, and apparently it takes over a week to bake a “Bickli” properly. 

The following video from Swiss regional newspaper Bauern Zeitung shows some modern examples, complete with edible gingerbread panels and Swiss-German narration.

Nowadays, most of the Bickli and Devisli are considered too beautiful to be eaten, and instead are carefully preserved between holidays.

Therefore, we recommend checking with the owner of the Chlausezüüg before you tuck in for a delicious Christmas snack. 

Weird Christmas Traditions Series

Weird Swiss Christmas Traditions #5: Make an edible tree

Weird Swiss Christmas traditions: #6 Geneva's 'Coupe de Noël'

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Do Swiss cows really get airlifted down from the Alps after summer?

'Flying cows' is possibly one of the more curious myths people hear about Switzerland. But is there any truth to it?

Do Swiss cows really get airlifted down from the Alps after summer?

If you talk to foreigners and ask them a surprising thing about Switzerland, many will mention the “flying cows”, and pictures of the animals being taken by helicopter up and down the Swiss Alps are not difficult to find.

“The cows in Swiss are taken to the highlands by helicopters for grazing during summers and brought down back again by helicopters in the winters!” wrote one person in an English-speaking forum.

The pictures of airlifted cows can be found all over the Internet, adding fuel to the myth – but the images are not fake.

So, are cows airlifted in Switzerland once the summer is over?

Yes, cows really get a free helicopter ride up and down the Alps, but only when necessary.

Injured cows that cannot make the journey walking will not be left to die in the cold mountains during the winter season. Instead, they are taken down to the area where the rest of the herd will join them via helicopter ride.

Healthy cows going down the Alps are also a sight worth seeing. In the alpine regions, the yearly march of the cows from grazing in the Alps is called “Alpabzug” (something like “drive from the mountain pasture”).

In the French regions, the march is known as “Désalpes”.

Farmers and shepherds will wear traditional clothes and decorate their cows.

The event takes place in early autumn, usually late September or early October. It is determined by the lack of grass, or if any cold spells start, so it depends on the region and can vary year by year.

The Désalpes festival

The event becomes a party in Switzerland, and people meet up in their villages to see the cows on their journey from the Alps.

They share food (especially cheese) and wine, and there are musical presentations (such as an alpine choir), yodelling, and of course, the cow bells making it known that they are coming through.

The cows leading the procession are usually the best dairy cows and receive decorated headdresses. The event has become a significant tourist attraction in the Alpine regions.