We have an expression in English, "Every cloud has a silver lining". Thus, however much you may deplore changes to Swiss culture brought about by clouds of globalization, there are winners too. Take the recent introduction of Halloween to the Swiss calendar. Ten years ago here, October 31 passed unnoticed, but this year from schools to supermarkets and night clubs, the night of 'witches and goblins' was celebrated across the land in a style worthy of any sate in American. The silver lining this cloud brings is in the form of extra turnover for sellers of cheap pointed black hats and plastic vampire teeth. Likewise pumpkin farming has taken on a new lease of life.

The pressures of a global economy are now seen to be eroding the Samichlaus tradition. Less and less is he depicted as the forest-dwelling saint who modestly appears with donkey and dirty-faced assistant on December 6, and more and more as the sleigh-riding reindeer-towed global Santa Claus. Santa lives at the North Pole, and in English-speaking culture he appears on the night of December 24 to 25 and brings much more than nuts and oranges to children.

As little as twenty years ago Swiss children had a clear idea of who Samichlaus and the Christkind were, when they appeared and what they did. Today global Santa is everywhere to confuse them and dilute the Swiss tradition. TV and press advertisements are full of Santas at this time of year. The Christmas movie treats for children have featured global Santa for a number of years now. He can be seen climbing up Swiss buildings and his reindeer and sledge are on Swiss roofs.

Halloween started in Celtic Europe, was exported to the New World, and was largely forgotten about in Europe until its prominence in the movie E.T. - a market niche was discovered and now a 'trick or treat' American-style Halloween has been re-imported. Likewise Samichlaus and Santa Claus and St Nicholas were likely all one and the same Bishop from Myra in what is modern day Turkey: a long sleigh-ride from the North Pole. St Nicholas was noted for his generosity to children. His history is vague, but his feast day is December 6. However, in the days of St Nicholas, Christmas had not yet been invented. Christians celebrated Easter as the high feast of the year (as they still do in modern-day Greece). It was Pope Julius I in the 5th century who chose December 25th as the birthday of Christ. This was a smart political decision that was designed to promote the spread of Christianity without the requirement to drop older heathen traditions. Thus the Church incorporated the Roman celebration of the feast of Saturn, the god of agriculture, and the much older pagan worship at the winter solstice into the new Feast of the Nativity – known today as Christmas in English and Weihnacht in German.

The British tradition of Christmas is very different from Weihnacht in Switzerland both historically and today. The British kept many symbols from the pagan celebrations like mistletoe, holly and ivy and also held on to the pagan style of celebration. As far back as the middle ages, Christmas was a time of eating and drinking and a time of raucous behavior. Any Swiss who has spent the holiday in an English-speaking country cannot help to be shocked by the way Christmas is celebrated there.

In the USA Christmas got off to a bad start. The Puritans banned it and, after independence, Christmas was seen as a British tradition and was not even a holiday until 1870. But once the commercial potential of Christmas was fully understood, there was no holding the holiday back. Picking up on a world-wide tradition of St Nicholas derivatives such as Père Noël, the Weihnachsmann, the British Father Christmas and with a little help from the Dutch 'Sintaklaas' in New Amsterdam (later renamed New York by the British), the American Santa Claus was born. In 1822 an American, Clement Moore, wrote a poem which really started the modern Santa myth of a sleigh pulled by reindeer and an ability to enter houses via the chimney to leave toys for children. The illustrations to this poem showed Santa as a small fat, jolly elf-like [Kobold] figure with clothes that are much more clown-like than those of Samichlaus. Then too the North Pole home and toy workshop appeared as did a horde of elf helpers. In the 19th century Santa's clothes were green and it was Coca-Cola in the 1930s that used a Santa in red and white for its advertising.

Meanwhile back in the Swiss forest, Samichlaus has been happily living a life much more akin to the original Turkish Bishop, than a jolly elf. Today he lives under the cloud of globalization too.

Is it inevitable that Swiss Samichlaus loses market share to global Santa? Or should Samichlaus see this as a silver lining and extent his core business beyond December 6th and trade until December 24th?