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Bizarre Swiss Christmas traditions #3: Get drunk on cake, but don’t ‘make it vomit’

Next up in our series on weird, wonderful and wacky Swiss traditions, we head to the Italian-speaking region of Ticino - where ‘il dolce’ takes centre stage on Christmas Day.

Bizarre Swiss Christmas traditions #3: Get drunk on cake, but don’t 'make it vomit'
Photo: Depositphotos

The cultural differences between the diverse regions of Switzerland are a frequent topic here on The Local – and nowhere is more unique and diverse than the Italian-speaking south of the country. 

Expectedly, things take on a more Italian flavour – however the region’s location and history have given these Italian traditions a uniquely Swiss feel. 

READ MORE: How to celebrate Christmas like the Swiss

Nowhere is this more apparent than at Christmas time, where the festivities take place on a different day (December 25th), a different time (a lunch rather than dinner), where fish is served – and where dessert or il dolce takes centre stage. 

The panettone is so much a part of Swiss culture that the cake itself keeps guests in check on the 25th, while another famous local dessert is the spampezie – a square pastry filled with grappa. 

How sweet it is

Although arguments about whether to serve fish or meat are set to punctuate the lead up to Christmas (the usual result is that both will be served), the true star of the show on Christmas Day is the dessert. 

Although geographically small, the Italian-speaking region of Switzerland has a remarkably diverse range of Christmas desserts and cakes – but the absolute favourite is undoubtedly panettone. 

The panettone is such an important part of Ticinese and northern Italian culture that in November 2019 the region held the first Panettone World Cup.

A typical panettone. Image: Depositphotos

The gold medal went to a bakery in Genoa (Italy), however Ticinese bakers picked up the silver and bronze medals

The panettone is a sweet bread loaf which is similar to the German stollen, but sits high in an octagon shape and contains raisins, lemon zest and candied oranges. 

While sampling or even touching is forbidden, the panettone will sit in the middle of the table throughout Christmas lunch as a reminder of who is boss.

Please don’t make the cake vomit!

In Ticino there’s also a saying at Christmas timequéll lí al fa vigní sü ul panetún da Natál – which loosely translates to “that [thing you did/said] makes the panettone vomit”. 

The phrase is used when someone is being too annoying, boring or inappropriate – and is meant to ensure good and engaging behaviour around the table at Christmas time. 

As reported in the Ticino Courier, “we must hope that this does not happen, especially at this time of celebration”.

Truer words have ne’er been spoken. 


If panettone isn’t your bag – or if you’d prefer to outsource the task of ruining dinner to yourself – there’s of course the spampezie.

Unlike what the name might suggest – and fortunately for vegetarians and people with tastebuds – the dessert does not contain spam. Instead, spampezie is a gingerbread-like pastry filled with grappa. 

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A spampezie. Image courtesy

We’ve not got official statistics on how many spampezie you’d need to eat to put yourself over the limit, but considering the amount of wine and booze consumed at this time of year, there’s the very real chance a spampezie or two might put you over the edge. 

Swiss Christmas Traditions Series

Bizarre Swiss Christmas traditions #3: Get drunk on cake, but don’t “make it vomit”

Bizarre Swiss Christmas Traditions #4: Lake Lucerne’s Santa Hunt

Bizarre Swiss Christmas Traditions #5: Edible gingerbread trees

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


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EXPLAINED: Which pets can’t be kept alone in Switzerland?

One of Switzerland’s most unique laws is a prohibition on keeping ‘social’ animals alone as pets. But which animals does this rule apply to?

EXPLAINED: Which pets can’t be kept alone in Switzerland?

Most people get pets to counter their own loneliness – but what happens if the pets themselves get lonely? 

Like the clown who entertained the village but was never able to laugh or smile, the lonely pet is a sad tale. 

Fortunately in Switzerland, loneliness among pets has been outlawed – or at least minimised, through a series of 

Certain animals which are considered to be ‘sociable’ cannot be kept alone, nor can they be kept in small cages or enclosures.

Under Article 13 of Switzerland’s Animal Protection Ordinance (TSchV), these animals must be accompanied by another animal of the same species, i.e. providing them with the company of another animal – or that of a human – will not be sufficient.  

Which animals does Switzerland consider to be ‘social’?

Working out which animals are considered social and which are not can be difficult, especially as the section itself does not lay out an exhaustive list. 

In practice however, there are several animals which are considered social and must be kept in pairs as a minimum. 

These are guinea pigs, mice, gerbils, rats, degus (Chilean rodent), chinchillas and ferrets. 

READ MORE: The 12 strange laws in Switzerland you need to know

Rabbits can be kept alone only after they are eight weeks old, as younger rabbits are considered social animals. 

Hamsters on the other hand can be kept alone – in fact, ‘gold hamsters’ are loners and should be kept alone, according to the Swiss Veterinary and Food Safety Ordinance

Dog owners are recommended to allow their animal to have contact with other dogs, however this is not mandatory. Cats can be kept alone but should be allowed outside regularly. 

The list isn’t limited only to mammals, however. 

Goldfish must also be kept in pairs, along with budgies, lovebirds, Japanese quails, macaws, cockatoos, parakeets, parrots, canaries and finches. 

Where one animal dies, you are required to quickly replace it, so that the one which remains is not lonely

If you cannot, the Swiss authorities ask that you give your animal to a home or another pet owner, so it won’t be lonely for too long. 

There’s also Zurich’s ‘guinea pig rental’ service, whereby you can get some temporary company for your pet in times of need. 

While it may sound like a laughing matter to some, more and more is being understood about how animals interact and deal with stress. 

Animal behaviour such as plucking out feathers or scratching fur is now being understood as a consequence of loneliness. 

“The law reflects our perception of how animals are kept in a species-appropriate manner,” Jean-Michel Hatt, Professor of Zoo, Home and Wildlife Medicine at the University of Zurich, told Germany’s Welt newspaper when the law was passed in 2008. 

“Especially with budgerigars and guinea pigs, the legal obligation to keep at least two of them is really the minimum.”

What happens if you break the rules? 

Generally speaking, you will receive a caution and an explanation about the rules at first instance, as presumably many would be unclear about the laws and how they apply. 

However, there are some relatively harsh penalties for those who continue to refuse to observe the rules. 

Persistent violations could see you receive a fine of up to CHF20,000, which is a lot more expensive than an additional budgie. 

At worst, you could even find your own loneliness increasing exponentially, as animal neglect carries with it a maximum jail term of 180 days in Switzerland (at which point you’ll probably begin to understand how the guinea pigs feel). 

What other rules should pet owners consider? 

In addition to reflecting animals’ social nature, it also seeks to protect their privacy. 

An animal enclosure must allow for space where the animal can retreat in private wherever it likes. 

So if you’re thinking of building something and want to stay consistent with Swiss law, try and construct something like a share house for your pets, with both a common area and a place where it can get some well-deserved privacy.