Friday, December 15, 2017

Sending Santa a letter through the Swiss post

Ever thought of writing a letter to Father Christmas? My kids are teenagers but I still tell them: " If you don't believe in Father Christmas, he won't be able to bring you any presents! You choose!"

In Switzerland, whoever writes a letter to the Christ Child (who - in the German part of Switzerland - brings the presents at Christmas) will get an answer. The same applies to St. Nicholas and Babbo Natale. A special team at the Swiss Post answers every request on their behalf.

In Switzerland each year approximately 16,000 letters are addressed to Santa. Addresses range from the local woods to the North Pole. And the post office delivers them all. Not to the forest, not into heaven, not to the North Pole either, but to Chiasso, where a special team answers the letters on behalf of the addressee.

The only prerequisite is that the sender is identifiable. And even if the sender only marks "Sébastien, 5" or "Anna Lena, Trueb," the post will move heaven and earth to determine the complete address. For example, by checking the postmark. Thus, only four hundred letters remain unanswered.

Three quarters of the letters are from the French part of Switzerland and Ticino - an interesting cultural detail. To the Christ Child, the St. Nicholas and Babbo Natale, origins don't matter, they reply eloquent in all four national languages as well as in English.

And what does Santa's team deliver? It could be a Christmas story, a flip book or a box of crayons. Something that will make the children's faces light up and is sure to make them smile.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Piazza la Fondue a Lugano

This is the tip of the week!

Piazza la Fondue is the new gastronomic event promoted by the City of Lugano to be held in conjunction with "Natale in Piazza", adding a delicious gastronomic component to the rich pre-Christmas atmosphere!

Enjoy a unique opportunity to to spend time with friends before the holidays enjoying a delicious cheese fondue with friends in one of the city's most beautiful squares at the foot of Lugano's cultural center (LAC).

Click here to enter Piazza la Fondue's website where you can reserve a kit consisting of 1 caquelon and 5 forks with 250 g per person of delicious cheese and bread at the price of CHF 20.- per person.

In case of bad weather the event will move to the city's municipal facilities at Campo Marzio, Pavilion MAC 3 (entrance Viale dei Faggi). IN any case make sure you dress warm!

Venue: Piazza la Fondue
Where: Piazza Bernardino Luini, 6900 Lugano
Date: Sunday, December 17th, 2017
Time: 11:45 to 13:30
Price: CHF 20.- p.p.
Reservation before Friday, December 15th, 2017 here:

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Swiss Christmas cookies: Zimtstärnli & Brunsli

Having shared my all-time favourite groovy Christmas albums with you, I would like to let you in on my absolute favourite Christmas biscuits of all times.

Switzerland has a very strong tradition of making Christmas biscuits and there is a vast varitey of them. Today’s Christmas cookies can trace their history to recipes from Medieval Europe biscuits, which when many modern ingredients such as cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, almonds and dried fruit were introduced into the west. By the 16th century Christmas biscuits had become popular across Europe.

It is a treat and a great deal of fun to prepare these every year with my children. Of course, they think the best part is licking the kitchen utensils and bowls once the biscuits are in the oven. Ideally you would invite a friend and her kids to bake along with you....the more, the merrier!!!!

Zimtstärnli/ Cinnamon stars
3 egg whites
1 pinch of salt
250gr powder sugar
1,5 tbsp cinnamon
350 gr ground almonds
0.5 tbsp Kirsch (Swiss cherry schnapps)

1.) Beat the egg whites with the salt until stiff.
2.) Mix in the powder sugar.
3.) Put aside and cover about 1dl of the above mixture for icing later.
4.) Mix cinnamon and ground almonds, add Kirsch and combine with the remaining egg whites/sugar mixture until you obtain a dough-like texture.
5.) Roll out the dough on a plastic bag or on a sugar-covered base. The thickness of the dough should be about 1cm.
6. ) Cut out the stars carefully with a cookie cutter which you dip into sugar before every use.
7. ) Lay out the cookies on an oven tray covered with baking paper.
8.) Glazing / drying:  Dip a little glaze onto the middle of each star, pull the icing towards the star tips with a wooden toothpick.
9.) Let the cookies dry at room temperature for about 6 hours or overnight.
10) Bake approx. 5 min. in the middle of a preheated oven at 250°C. Take out and let cool on a cookie rack.

Brunsli/Christmas brownies
150 g sugar
1 pinch of salt
250 g ground almonds
¼ tea spoon cinnamon
1 pinch of clove powder
2 tablespoons of cocoa powder
2 tablespoons of flour
2 fresh egg whites 
100 g bitter chocolate
2 tea spoons of kirsch

1.) Mix sugar, salt, almonds, cinnamon, clove powder, cocoa powder and flour in a bowl.
2.) Add egg whites and stir until ingredients are evenly distributed.
3.) Cut chocolate in real small pieces, pour hot water over the chocolate, let rest for about 5 minutes, then pour off all water except about half a tablespoon, stir until even. Now immediately proceed with the next step.
4.) Add melted chocolate from the previous step and the kirsch, knead to a soft dough.
5.) Roll out dough on a flat surface (sprickle surface slightly with sugar so the dough does not stick to it), approximately 10 mm thick. Cut out different shapes with cookie cutter and put them on a baking sheet covered with baking paper.
6.) Let them rest for about 5 to 6 hours or over night in a dry place.
7.) Bake for about 4 to 6 minutes in the center of the pre-heated oven at 250 °C. Let cool completely before serving.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

San Nicolao or Samichlaus

One of the most important events on Switzerland's Christmas calendar is St Nicholas Day on December 6th. Samichlaus in the Swiss German part is known as San Nicolao in the Italian-speaking Ticino.

In some homes he comes unseen during the night of December 5th and leaves his offerings in shoes that have been filled with hay for his donkey and put outside the door.

In most parts of Switzerland, however, "Samichlaus" usually comes in person on December 6th, wearing a hooded red robe, ringing a small bell and carrying a burlap sack of gifts. He tends to be on the thin rather than fat side, and lives in the forest as opposed to the North Pole.

He quizzes children about their good and bad deeds of the past year. Once praise and blame have been distributed and the children have recited their obligatory verses, "Samichlaus" rewards them with "grittibänz" (bread men), chocolate, clementines and nuts.

Often the sack-bearer is not "San Nicolao" himself but his companion, a dark clothed figure with a blackened face who may threaten to carry bad children off in the sack. He answers to many names, depending on where he appears: Schmutzli, Père Fouettard, or l'uomo nero. Over the years though, and despite retaining his foreboding appearance, Schmutzli has evolved into a more benign figure.

So have you been good this year?

Following is a lovely Samichlaus good night story written over 60 years ago.
Santa's Grand Tour in English: samichlaus/english
Die grosse Reise des Nikolaus in German: samichlaus

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

De Samichlaus chunnt...

Tomorrow is Samichlaus. December 6th is a very important date in my personal calendar. It brings back fond memories of my early childhood. Growing up in Zürich it is the day St.Nicolas (Samichlaus) comes to town bringing mandarines, nuts and chocolate to all the good girls and boys.

At school we used to receive a Grittibänz (St.Nicolas bread). In exchange children were asked to recite a poem about Samichlaus. Here is a sample of a Samichlaus poem:

De Wald isch wiis und voller Schnee,
ich glaub, ich han de Chlaus grad gseh.
Mis Herzli chlopft ganz fescht und gschwind,
gaht er no zu andere Chind?
Chum ine, liebe Samichlaus,
und lär Diin Sack grad us,
chumm, bliib doch no es Wiili i öisem warme Huus

Tonight I am baking my Grittibänz to surprise my kids at breakfast tomorrow morning. Feel like joining me?

Samichlaus Grittibänz recipe / Pupazzo di San Nicolao

500gr plain flour or Zopf flour
1,5 tsp salt
3 tbsps sugar
1/2 cube of fresh yeast (approx. 20 grams)
60gr butter
2,5dl milk
1 egg
1 tbsp cream
hazelnuts, almonds, raisins and decorating sugar for decorating

1.) In a large bowl mix flour, salt and sugar.
2.) Add the fresh yeast (crumbled up), and mix again.
3.) Melt the butter. Add the milk and heat the butter milk mixture until it’s lukewarm. Add half the beaten egg.
4.) Pour the milk, butter, egg mixture into the bowl with the dry ingredients and mix. Knead the dough for 10 minutes by hand or 5 minutes using a machine.
5.) Cover the dough with clingfilm and let it rise at a warm place for one hour.
6.) Knock the air out and form little bread men decorating them with nuts and raisins forming eyes, nose, mouth and buttons (similar to a snowman)
7.) Put them onto a baking tray and let them rise again for approx 45 minutes on baking tray at room temperature.
8.) Using a brush, apply the egg wash (half egg & cream) onto the bread men.
9.) Sprinkle with coarse sugar and let your imagination flow.
10.) Bake at 200 C for 25-30 minutes. The breads should look nicely browned and sound hollow when you knock the base with your finger.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Christmas countdown Kindness Calendar

It is still not too late to start an Advent calendar. Even if my kids' favourite Advent calendars are the chocolate ones from Coop supermarket, this doesn't mean I can't add another one this December. She Lives Free has posted a lovely Acts of Kindness countdown to Christmas printable calendar.

Ideally, you'll be holding the door open to a stranger or giving out free hugs more than once a month but maybe doing these acts of kindness consciously might spark the impulse to do more.

And don't forget, you can always modify the acts that don't feel right and replace them with your own. So, go ahead and start making some space on your kitchen fridge to hang up this very sweet Advent calendar.

Click here: Happy Advent!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Christmas Shopping in Lugano for a cause

If you are reading this today and wondering what to do, don't miss the Annual Christmas Bazaar organised by the IWCL Evening Group.

You are invited to join the IWCL (International Women's Club of Lugano) on December 3rd, 2017 for an afternoon of Luxury Christmas Shopping in favour of Progetto Avventuno!

Progetto Avventuno is an association that supports people with Down syndrome providing activities both recreational and informative, supporting families, training for professionals, and raising awareness.

The doors of the fair will open at 14:00 and there will be something for every pocket, don't be shy and come around!

At 15:00 there will be a free snack time to cure that sweet tooth, along with coffee and tea.

At 16:00 a free wine tasting will begin, by all means with some tasty savoury snacks. Craft activity is offered for little people!

Venue: Christmas Luxury Shopping in collaboration with the IWCL
Where: Hotel Pestalozzi, Piazza Indipendenza 9, 6901 Lugano
Date, Sunday December 3rd, 2017
Time: 14:00 to 18:00

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Natale in Piazza a Lugano

With numerous entertainments and events, the Christmas holidays are a fabulous time to spend in Lugano. Christmas in Lugano starts with the lighting of the tree in Riforma Square. From that moment, the heart of the city becomes a bright village, bestowing opportunities for entertainment, musical performances, a market and surprises until the Epiphany.

From November 23rd, the City will be transformed with Christmas lights, sounds and colours. The most beautiful festival of the year is celebrated with the markets, a children’s village, concerts, entertainment, the New Year’s Eve open-air party and many other events that will fill the city with the magic of Christmas up until January 7th, 2018.

Lighting of the Christmas Tree (in the presence of the city authorities, Julie Arlin)
01.12 / 18:00 Piazza della Riforma

There will be a distribution of little gifts for children offered by Migros Ticino. Acoustic concert with Charlie Row, followed by Brass Band T-X-Project.

The Christmas Market
23.11 – 23.12 / 11:00 – 19:00
24.12 / 11:00 – 17:00 City centre
23.11 – 07.12 Piazza della Riforma and via Nassa
08.12 – 24.12 City centre

Christmas Village
23.11 – 07.01 Piazza della Riforma and Piazza Manzoni

Food huts, musical entertainment and family entertainment with the special programme “Christmas for children”.

Exchange of Christmas wishes
21.12 / 18:00 Piazza della Riforma

In the presence of the Lugano Municipality and members of the City Council. Panettone and mulled wine are offered to all.

Mass on Christmas Eve
24.12 / 22:00 Cattedrale di San Lorenzo

City Tour on board the tourist train
Saturdays and public holidays from 02.12 to 17.12 / 10:30 – 16:30 (every 30 minutes)
Saturdays and public holidays from 23.12 to 07.01 / 11:15 – 16:30 (every 45 minutes)
Weekdays from 27.12 to 05.01 / 12:45 – 16:30 (every 45 minutes) Piazza Manzoni

50 free tickets will be on offer for kids aged three to ten years accompanied by an adult every Saturday in December and on Saturday, January 6th, 2018.

Shopping: special opening hours
08.12 / 10:00 – 18:00
10.12 / 10:00 – 18:00
17.12 / 10:00 – 18:00
24.12 / 10:00 – 17:00

Great prize-winning competition
Christmas competition of the Lugano Shop Owners Association, in which three great prizes (shopping vouchers worth CHF 1’000.–, 500.– and 250.–) can be won, as well as many other surprises. To take part, simply fill in one of the postcards that can be found in participating stores. The winners will be drawn in mid-January.

Music in the Piazza
30.12 / 20:00 – 01:00 Piazza della Riforma

For the 30 year-anniversary of RETE TRE, the “New Year Swiss Rock Festival” will offer entertainment, DJ sets and many live guests: the CorLeoni, the Dögz, Andrea Bignasca and the Vad Vuc.

New Year’s Eve celebrations
31.12 / 22:30 – 02:30 Piazza della Riforma

RSI will see in the New Year in the Piazza, bringing the evening to life with music and entertainment from some of RETE TRE’s best-loved DJs, the contagious beats of Ridillo and the Frontaliers Bussenghi and Bernasconi.

New Year’s Day ceremony
01.01 / 11:00 Palazzo dei Congressi (Convention Center)

In the presence of the city authorities and the Lugano Volunteer Corps an Aperitivo will be offered to everyone (departure of the procession from the Piazza della Riforma at 11:00).

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Open your world

Honestly, I am no beer drinker, never have liked beer, never will... but this Heineken ad caught my attention. The beer company went in a wonderfully different direction from parties and loud music. In fact, it is the exact opposite of what we've come to expect from decades of beer ads.

The ad features people who disagree on issues like climate change, feminism, and transgender rights.
There's one important catch: The two people don't know they disagree with each other when they first sit down.

Take a look for yourself:

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Lugano free City Tour

If you hurry you can participate in a free city tour of Lugano today. You might feel at home along the Lago Ceresio but have you ever taken a tour of your own city... just for the fun of it?

Autumn in the region of Lugano gives magic emotions… the glowing “palazzi”, the flavours of the local cuisine and sunny days that can warm up one’s face and heart. Pretend to be a tourist for a day.

Lugano Turismo wishes to promote its city and let you spend unforgettable moments by offering a guided excursion in the city center. You'll discover the most hidden corners and enjoy a small tasting experience of local products.

The guided tour will be held in the two prevalent languages from 10:30 to 12:30.
Meeting point is at the Information office: Ente Turistico del Luganese in Piazza Riforma. For more info call: +41 91 605 12 26

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