Christmas Customs

The «Chlausezüüg» is a typical Christmas ornament and adorns every Christmassy living room in Appenzell Innerrhoden and is a tradition that is older than the Christmas tree.

Christmastime in Appenzell Innerrhoden is a feast for all our senses. Christmastime begins on All Saints’ Day the 1st of November, when the new «Chlausebickli» (painted gingerbread biscuits) are put in the confectioners’ shop windows. The confectioners of Innerrhoden have been making these unfilled honey gingerbread biscuits by hand since the beginning of the 20th century. Many of the handpainted sugar pictures on the biscuits are created by artists. The word «Bickli» comes from «bicken» meaning «eye-catching» and was used generally in the past for anything pretty or valuable.

During Advent, the bakers create plaited breads and pastries, including «Tafel Vögl», «Tafel Zöpf», «Filering» and «Filebrood».

However, the centrepiece of every living room at Christmas is the «Chlausezüüg», which up until a few decades ago was just as popular as the Christmas tree. In those days the «Chlausezüüg» consisted of symbolic small loaves of bread in the shape of animals, which were layered in a pyramid shape on a milk dish filled with nuts and dried pears. These days a five-cornered wooden pyramid is decorated with the «Chlausebickli» and «Dewiisli», which are small painted images made from sugar dough and taste like aniseed cookies. Between the «Dewiisli», there are rosy-red apples. The frame is hidden behind tinsel fringes. At the top is a little artificial fir tree, which in earlier times was formed from Biberfladen cookies.

In the past, the «Chlausebickli» were given to children from November onwards by their godparents or grandparents and were placed between the double window panes where they formed an attractive decoration and remained soft. Depending on family tradition, from Christmas or New Year’s onwards the imposing pyramid was consumed piece by piece – ideally with lots of butter and «Steendlihung», a special type of golden syrup. These days the «Chlausebickli» and «Dewiisli» are no longer eaten but are kept as works of art and used year after year.

After almost disappearing, the custom of carving «Bechüe» cows is now experiencing a resurgence. In January the trunk of the discarded Christmas tree is sawn into pieces at the forks of the branches. Two branches form the front legs of the cow. Some people hang a cowbell from the «Bechüe». Sometimes they also stick on leather ears. However, even without additions it is a wonderfully archaic toy.


Appenzell Innerrhoden


1st of November (All Saints' Day) to the 2nd of February (Candlemas)