BOYS AND GIRLS ENJOY SKIING IN THIS ALPINE PLAYGROUND
CHRISTMAS CUSTOMS IN SWITZERLAND
By MARIE WIDMER
[This article originally appeared in the December, 1921 issue of ST. NICHOLAS, a magazine for young people.]
It is on the day before Christmas, and the dear little mountain village is almost buried in sparkling, pure-driven snow—a marvelous vision in white, with its fleckless beauty still accentuated by the sapphire blue of the sky, the healthy sepia-tan of the chalets, and the somber green of the stately pines.
That indescribably sweet perfume of the Christmas season floats through the air, and every bush and tree wears proudly the dazzling decorations which nature has so lavishly provided in her own artistic designs. We behold a new world, gloriously beautiful and humble in spirit at the same time; a world full of mystic charm, as it appears now in the delicate illumination of a crescent moon and its endless company of stars.
Here and there a merry tinkling of bells! Sleigh-riders homeward bound, eager to reach a friendly hearth in time for the celebration of the gladdest and greatest festival of the year—Christmas, when the Christkindli—the Christ-child—walks on earth.
And lo, as we look pensively down the narrow village street, there approaches a sleigh, drawn by six magnificent reindeer. Its occupant, a radiant angel—the Christkindli—is the poetic successor of jolly old Santa. Claus, who in many parts of Switzerland, and not so long ago, used to be hailed as the generous donor of all Yule-tide gifts. On Christkindli's sleigh, there are Christmas trees of every size, decorated with the many glittering things which are so fascinating to young hearts, and heavily laden with rosy apples, oranges, nuts, and fragrant cookies. A truly appetizing and sensible array! There are packages, too, of tantalizing shape; and with the aid of her helpers, Christkindli distributes trees and gifts.
Christmas trees everywhere—not a house is forgotten! And before the youngsters are allowed to play with their toys, the whole family gathers around the tree and sings some carols—heartfelt, joyous offerings to God for his sublime gift to humans. In many a home the story of the Nativity is read from the voluminous old family Bible, and the actual origin of the Christmas tree may even be brought up for discussion by some college-bred member, for no matter how isolated a Swiss village is, there is not one inhabitant who does not regard education as the greatest asset in modern life.
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