Christmas traditions

Christmas time with Mediterranean charm

Surrounded by Christmas illuminations, streets and houses sparkle and the fragrance of mulled wine, hot chestnuts and gingerbread spices wafts through the streets. The lake mirrors the festively decorated promenade, glittering in the night with its dancing lights. It's a time for reflection – but also for activity: many traditions come alive at this time of year

What makes Christmas on Lake Maggiore so unique? The mild climate and the Mediterranean charm: it's where Switzerland meets Italy, and it encompasses the best of both worlds – white peaks where skiing is possible, and a lakeside climate that's milder than anywhere else in Switzerland.

An ice rink in the heart of Locarno
While out shopping for the perfect gift, stop off for a cappuccino on a sunny terrace with your purchases at your feet and watch the comings and goings on the piazza: children turning pirouettes on the ice rink, people meeting for a drink, others soaking in the atmosphere while treating themselves to tasty morsels from the colourful wooden chalets as musicians play. Locarno on Ice is an event that warms the hearts on chilly winter days and transforms the Piazza Grande into a cheery fairytale world.

Christmas in Ascona
Ascona celebrates Advent with a variety of events, including a Christmas market, a Christmas run, a New Year's concert, a sparkling firework display and a giant table (Tavolata di Ascona) at which people ring in the year together.

Panettone, the traditional Christmas loaf
Christmas markets, such as those lining the alleys of the surrounding villages, are great places to find handicrafts and local specialities. Speaking of food, did you know that panettone is eaten only at Christmas in Ticino and Italy? The aerated sweet loaf is served at the end of every family meal. All kinds of variations are available featuring candied fruit, chocolate, tangerines or figs, so you're sure to find one that's exactly to your taste.

Culture of the nativity scene
The presepi (cribs) are also very popular. Vira (Gambarogno) and Moghegno (Vallemaggia) are particularly well known for this tradition. Advent finds these two pretty, well-preserved little villages, which ooze a medieval charm to match the Christmas spirit, transformed into a fantasy of crib displays: the narrow alleys feature a dazzling array of cribs, ranging from the ultra traditional to the ultra modern and innovative.

From palm trees on the lake to the classic winter fairy tale in the mountains
If you're looking for a classic Swiss winter in the Ticino, you'll find it: the Cardada, Locarno's local mountain, attracts snow devotees with fantastic views over Lake Maggiore and activities such as snowshoeing. Others make for the Vallemaggia and Bosco Gurin, a Walser village offering 30 km of groomed slopes, a sledge run, a dedicated children's area and a brand new toboggan run. On the other hand, charming Mogno in the Lavizzara is great for children, beginners and cross-country aficionados. Also, on the Alpe di Neggia, at 1400 m above sea level, there is a small winter paradise with a ski lift for beginners and toboggan run.

How will you be spending the Christmas period?
Every family has its Christmas traditions, and everyone has their little Advent rituals: relaxing in slippers in front of the fire, baking biscuits at the stove, browsing the Christmas markets. What really counts in this season of scarves and hot punch is doing yourself some good and having a little 'me' time. What are your traditions? Share your top moments with us using the hashtag #myasconalocarno! One of our traditions is the Advent competition, for which you can participate on Facebook from 1 December. Good luck!