The game's up for the Christmas criminal! These days it is possible to haul people in front of international criminal courts for countless reasons, big and small. So, I think it is high time for one long-reigning trickster to face justice.

Author:De Faoite, Diarmuid
Position:Humour
 
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Who do I want to see get sent down? The answer, of course, is Schmutzli (as he is known in the German-speaking part of the country)!

The sidekick to Samichlaus (himself a well-known exercise-dodger and tax-exile, who spends all but one day a year in the North Pole to escape the authorities' clutches) usually carries a broom of twigs, which he uses to beat naughty children.

For these reasons, Schmutzli--a.k.a. Knecht Ruprecht, Hans Trapp, Hans Muff, Pelzebock, Drapp, Buzeberg and Zwarte Piet--should be considered armed and dangerous.

Schmutzli has so far evaded capture, as he is a master of disguise. It is quite difficult to spot him at night as he usually only wears dark clothes--thereby blending in seamlessly with the 83.5 per cent of Swiss people who also wear all black.

Mixin' it up

In Ticino and the French-speaking part of Switzerland, he is actually a she. (Sounds an awful lot like the reverse of a typical "You won't believe what happened to me on holiday in Thailand" story if you ask me!)

He ... sorry ... she is known as Befana in Ticino and Chauche-vieille in Western Switzerland. (I've read that Schmutzli is also known as Pere Fouettard in the French-speaking part. This name basically translates as Father Whip--no wonder children grow up disciplined here!!!)

In Ticino, children hang up stockings on the night of January 5, and if they've been good, Befana brings them sweets, while bad children get a lump of coal. Promoting the use of fossil fuels to impressionable youngsters means that Befana has drawn the ire of the Green Party. (In fact, if the threatened ban on veiled clothing does come into force, she is quite likely to have the Swiss People's Party on her case too, as you can generally only see her beady little eyes.)

What a cunning gal (or fella in German-speaking Switzerland), she (oder...

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