Here's how to celebrate Christmas the Swiss way

Sandra Sparrowhawk
Sandra Sparrowhawk - [email protected]
Here's how to celebrate Christmas the Swiss way
The Swiss have many Christmas Day traditions. Photo by Nicole Michalou from Pexels.

From the giving of presents to the food and drink consumed, every European country has its own customs surrounding Christmas - and that is no different for the Swiss.


The Local unwraps the festive traditions in Switzerland so you can have yourself a merry Swiss Christmas. From epic baking sessions to DIY gifts: here's how to do Christmas the Swiss way.

Christmas morning walk

On cold winter days, there is nothing quite as refreshing as kicking off Christmas morning with a quiet stroll through your neighbourhood – as some Swiss like to do before family and friends start knocking on their front door.

We suggest toasting your walk with a cup of mulled wine, grabbing a cosy blanket and snacking on some roasted almonds to start off the day.



“Many families, especially those with children, make and decorate their own Christmas cookies. It is an important family event where kids and parents participate,” says Katalin Fekete, co-author of the Swiss Cookies recipe book.

Milanese (Mailänderli) lemon shortbreads, cinnamon stars (Zimtsterne) and little Swiss “brownies” (Brunsli) are traditional in the German-speaking part but have now spread to other parts of Switzerland.

There are also regional specialities, such as aniseed cookies (Anischräbeli) from the canton of Aargau, Läckerli spice biscuits from Basel and Tirggel honey biscuits from Zurich.

“Rum balls (Rumkugeln) and Swiss chocolate truffles (truffes) are popular nowadays too, especially to give away as a present,” says Fekete.

While some families choose to bake in the days leading up to Christmas Day, others prefer freshly baked goods on the day – and there’s another benefit to leaving your baking until Christmas morning.

Namely, if you happen to be in need of a spontaneous Christmas gift, then a bag of nicely wrapped Christmas cookies will do the trick. In fact, the Swiss not only love to bake these traditional Christmas cookies, but they are often given to friends and family as a gift during the Christmas season.

Church visit

While many devout Swiss of various faiths head to church on Christmas Eve, Switzerland’s Catholic churches also hold church services throughout Christmas Day where the story of the birth of Jesus Christ is shared.

This tradition is still widespread today. The Christmas services are among the best-attended liturgical church celebrations in Switzerland.

Some religious Swiss also gather in their own homes to read passages from the bible to their family by the Christmas tree.

You can access a list of Switzerland’s churches here.



Once the family has gathered, it is time for the much-anticipated Christmas meal.

Unlike most European countries, Switzerland doesn't really have 'classic' Christmas dishes such as the turkey in the UK or the roasted goose in Germany and some would argue that one signature Christmas dish wouldn’t suit a country this multicultural and multilingual.

However, while the Swiss do not eat one and the same thing on Christmas Day, a classic choice among the sociable Swiss is fondue chinoise. Instead of cheese, thin slices of meat are dipped into a shared pot of steaming broth and eaten with vegetables and other accompaniments.

Note that the dish is not (but can be) traditionally eaten with chopsticks, but rather fondue forks.

Other traditional Christmas dished include Schüfeli (pork shoulder), rolled ham, raclette and fondue bourguignonne (beef).

Depending on the canton, some Swiss may dig into Pastetli mit Milken (veal pies) - Aargau, Ravioli in Brodo (ravioli in broth) – Ticino, and if you live in French-speaking Switzerland, roast turkey.

READ MORE: The Christmas food that brings comfort and joy to the Swiss


Singing and playing music or instruments is also a very popular ritual on Christmas for the Swiss.

While this tradition is not embraced by every Swiss family (nor every family member), singing Christmas carols by the tree is an integral part of the Christmas celebration for many.


Some Christmas songs that are popular in Swiss families may include Silent Night, Jingle Bells, Ihr Kinderlein kommet, Leise rieselt der Schnee, O du fröhliche, O Tannenbaum and of course, the classic We wish you a merry Christmas.


Needless to say, the most anticipated part of Christmas is of course the unwrapping of the gifts.

But did you know that in Switzerland, most families unwrap presents on Christmas Eve and not in fact, on Christmas Day?

Still, a select few Swiss families choose to kick off Christmas morning with the gift-giving instead.

If you're wondering what to do if you your present doesn't live up to your expectations, read The Local's article on the rules around returning Christmas gifts in Switzerland.


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also