Many areas of Switzerland still keep St.
Nicholas Eve, when Samichla us appears in Catholic regions dressed in
bishopís robes and in Protestant districts as an old man in a Capuchin
cloak. He rides in from the snowbound winter forest on a little donkey,
often accompanied by a demonic figure called Schmutzli, the Black One.
Children eagerly await the sound of
tinkling bells which announce Samichlausís arrival at the door. He
questions the children on their behavior and their prayers and then
presents them with gifts. Schm utzli, a variation of Black Peter, is there
just in case some of the children have been naughty. Of course punishments
are never given. After shaking hands with everyone, Samichla us slips a
way to visit other neighborhood children.
The appearance of Samichlaus is often the
signal for noisy processions, the most spectacular of which is at
Kussnacht, where a procession of~men wearing enormous decorated miters lit
up inside, parade through the streets to the accompaniment of shaking
bells and cracking whips, the bell symbolizing Samichlaus and the whips
standing for Schmutzli.
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