Here in Zug, everyone is Christian. Well, they aren’t but according to
Europeans, especially the British, “Happy Christmas,” is the
only appropriate greeting in December. When I responded with “Happy Hanukkah,” to a very Swiss friend he literally looked befuddled. “What, are you a Jewish? Well, same to you.” Nice. Hope he doesn’t put this in my shoe. But, seriously folks I am the bi-cultural product of interfaith. Half-Jewish, half-Christian child of hipsters, one New York Jew, and one Ukrainian immigrant and so are most of us multicultural in this world, especially those who we call “third-culture kids.” The children of economic expats, or results of religion, culture, nation of origin blind pairing like me.
Besides having more foreigners than any other canton, Zug is also the richest and not by coincidence. Hindus, Muslims, Jews and other faiths make up the state and the city. But, in Zug, yesterday morning when I left my home I saw a tall skinny bishop hat wearing Santa and several monks in blackface. Also, there was a camel, children dressed in purple kings and queens robes and people on stilts. Since I grew up in Philly, and have since lived in Bushwick, Japan, France, India, and Israel nothing surprises me. I continued to my yoga class until I looked again at the men in blackface. Were they covering their faces out of humility as I learned the medieval monks in Italy do when in procession?
After discussing whether they were aware of the offensiveness of their message, I asked a fellow North American who is now fully Swiss. I finally found out the meaning. Sami Klaus, is St. Nicholas, originally from Turkey, who lived in Spain, which was then a part of Italy. His “helpers” around him were moors, i.e. black servants. Here in Switzerland, they are called “schmutzig,”dirty. Mothers will give a list to Sami Klaus, and if you are not a good child, you will be beaten with a stick, or taken up in a sack and removed-forever.
Then Sami Klaus comes to your house asking for money for the Catholic Church. He also marches en masse with cowbells.
This Holiday season, I will be teaching my students about diversity. In faith, in origin, in personality, in life. Global citizenry I call it in an international world. With and without rituals, and nationalism, that which is all a part of this world too, thank G-d.