Swiss Christmas Tradition: Krippe (Nativity Scene)

Swiss Tradition of Nativity Scenes

If you visit any Christmas market across Switzerland you will likely to find at least one little wooden chalet dedicated to selling “Krippen” figures (the Swiss word for nativity scenes). Being a christian country (almost 40% of the Swiss identify as Roman Catholic and just over 26% identify as protestant) the nativity scene is a typical Christmas decoration, seen mostly in churches but also in some homes across the country. 

These scenes are often made out of wood thanks to the Swiss’  long history, in particular in the Bernese Oberland, with wood carving. In the village of Brienz, for example, you will find the wood carving store - Huggler Holzbildhaueri -where they have been selling wooden carvings for over 100 years—including items for the Krippe.

Museums with Nativity Scenes in Switzerland

 Handcarved Nativity Scene from Huggle Holzbildhaueri on display at the Swiss National Museum, Zurich © Schweizerisches Nationalmuseum

Handcarved Nativity Scene from Huggle Holzbildhaueri on display at the Swiss National Museum, Zurich © Schweizerisches Nationalmuseum

In Zurich the National Museum is home over the advent period to its traditional Nativity Exhibition. In 2018 the museum is exhibiting nativity scenes made of clay, glass, paper and wood from not just from Switzerland but also from other countries like the Czech Republic. 

 Image provided by «DIORAMA Bethlehem, Einsiedeln»

Image provided by «DIORAMA Bethlehem, Einsiedeln»

Switzerland is also home to the biggest Nativity Scene in the world at Diorama Bethlehem located close to the Monastery in Einsiedeln. Worthy of a trip to see the amazing detailed design work (and maybe even better when combined with a visit to the Christmas market) the Diorama is open from the first Advent (02.12.18) until Three Kings Day on 06.01.2018. 

Where to buy

If you are after a Nativity Scene for a nice souvenir of Switzerland check out the shops at both the National Museum in Zurich and the Diaorama in Einsiedlen. For something extra special check out Huggle Holzbildhauerei in Brienz. Don’t forget to keep your eyes open at the Christmas markets where you’ll find Krippen in a variety of price ranges. For kids, though not Swiss, the toy brand HABA has a great collection of wooden figures

Swiss Christmas Traditions