Good Gritti


One of the most adorable things about Christmas in Switzerland has got to be Grittibänz. These “sweet bread men” (rough translation) can be seen all over the place and are a typical Christmas-time food in Switzerland. They start popping up in bakeries around December 6th, for the feast of St. Nicholas, and no Swissmas gathering would be complete without one!

Grittibänz at Migros

Tons o’ Grittibänz at our local Migros supermarket.

Public opinion is split over whether they are meant to represent Samichlaus – “Santa Claus” in Swiss German – or just regular ol’ bread men. Either way, these lil’ guys are very cute!

Grittibänz at Work

Some Grittis having a conversation at the coffee corner in my office.

The bread itself is sort of like a challah bread and the Grittibänz can be decorated with twigs, chocolate sticks, or raisins. They sometimes even have a little clay pipe (not edible … I found out the hard way, thinking it was hardened sugar … bleagh!).

C&A Grittibänz

A store near our apartment had a “free Grittibänz with purchase” promotion. I was all in!

*Fun Fact*: when my family was visiting me here in Switzerland for Christmas a few years back, I told my brother that “Grittibänz” meant “hello” in Swiss German. He basically went around Zürich saying “bread man” to one and all. What a guy! Luckily, he can take a joke and I’ll definitely be bringing him a Grittibänz for Christmas in NYC this year to make up for it!

Garrett & Grittibänz

An ad for Floralp (Swiss butter) featuring Grittibänz and me losing my sh!t over finding the ad in the newspaper.

Happy Holidays from Change of Underwear!


Merry Swissmas!

Swissmas 1This year’s Holiday season post looks back at last Christmas  – better known as Swissmas 2013.

Ever since our first Christmas as a couple (2006), I’ve always gone back to my family for the Holidays and my boyfriend has always gone back to his. We’ve always done our own little Christmas thing before and after my trip to the USA, but we were never actually together on Christmas day.

Well, last year was different.

Last Christmas, both of us stayed in Zurich, and we got to celebrate our first Christmas together! What’s more, both of our families came to Switzerland (from the USA and Italy) so we got to celebrate with them too! My boyfriend and my family for Christmas!

It was also the first time that our families met. We were obviously a bit nervous,  but it all went so well! We were both busy showing our families around the city, finishing shopping, organizing dinners for all of us, and translating so that everybody could actually communicate. It was a fast-paced Christmas, but was something I will never forget!

Swissmas 2

This year, I’m back in the USA and Francesco is heading to his family, in Italy. I guess we’re still not quite ready to renounce seeing our own families at Christmas, but I suppose this is something that many international couples face.  Eventually, we’ll start creating our own Christmas memories and traditions, as a couple, but for now I can say that I’m so happy to have had the experience of last year and happy to be with my family this Christmas too. There’s always next year to flip a coin and see whose family we spend the Holidays with.

Not to bore you with personal photos, but I wanted to share a bit of the magic that is Switzerland at Christmastime and one of the best memories I have.

Enjoy, and Happy Holidays!

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I hate the word “nougat”

Classic Italian TorroneNougat” is a gross word. Like “moist”, “plump”, “fondle”, or “panties”, I hate even pronouncing it. *Bleargh* 😦  However, I’m going to have to tackle the word “nougat” in order to take on today’s Christmas blog post. Ah, the things I do for you guys. 😉

There is a very typical Italian Christmas candy called torrone. It’s basically made of honey, sugar, and egg whites to form a ….. *sigh” … nougat. (I just puked in my mouth a little bit…) Then things like hazelnuts, almonds, candied oranges, vanilla, and chocolate can be added to create different variants. 'Nilla & H-Nuts

My first experience with torrone happened back when I was young. I remember my Italian Consolazio grandparents bringing it to our house every Christmas. They brought bite-sized pieces of torrone, individually packaged in little boxes with an Italian bakery guy on ’em, and there were flavors like classic, orange, and lemon.

One great place to pick up torrone, here in Milan, is the Oh Bej! Oh Bej! Christmas market. The name of the market means “Oh So Nice! Oh So Nice!” in Milanese dialect. That’s usually where I get my torrone to bring home at Christmas. If I dared show up without any, I’m not sure if my parents would even let me in the house…

The Milan Christmas Market

The Milan Christmas Market

Since my parents will probably read this (they better!), I’m gonna have to prove that I’ve already picked up this year’s supply. Here’s a picture of me below with the torrone I got. So, Mom & Dad, hang my stocking by the chimney with care, because I’m coming home … with nougat!

Italian Torrone - American Boy

Italian Torrone – American Boy


The Christmas Witch

Buon Natale a tutti!

My non-Italian readers may find the above picture to be strangely out-of-place during the Holiday season. It seems more like a Halloween thing rather than a Christmas one, doesn’t it?

Well, this witch with a heart of gold is very Christmasy in Italy. Her name is La Befana (or “Beffy” as I like to call her). She flies around on her broomstick and fills the stockings of  little boys and girls on the night of January 5th for the Christian holiday called Epiphany on the 6th. She gives candy and small toys to good children and coal to bad ones, just like Santa Claus does in America.

In the USA we have Santa that does both presents under the tree and the stockings while Italians have Babbo Natale (Santa Clause in Italian) for Christmas presents under the tree and La Befana for the stockings at the beginning of January.

Apparently, Italian Santa Claus was too busy enjoying “la bella vita” to get around to taking care of stockings, so he enlisted the help of the good witch.

Personally, I think it’s kind of cool to have the gifts split up between two different holidays that are close together. Getting presents on multiple days is sort of like a mini Hanukkah!

Well, I hope you’ve all been good this year or Beffy will be leaving you a lump of coal. If you’re lucky, maybe she’ll give you some candy coal instead of the real thing!

Christmas and Italian Cinema

First of all, MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Italy has this tradition of putting out trashy comedic Christmas films every year right around … well … Christmastime. This specific genre of trashy comedic Italian Christmas films is called Cinema Panettone. It gets its name from the popular (and extremely traditional) sweet Italian Christmas bread called panettone, which is a specialty of Milan.


These Cinema Panettone films always have the same sort of protagonist: an old, sort of funny, kind of gross, perverted old man. This man always gets himself mixed up in some crazy hijinks that more-often-than-not come about because he is trying to catch the eye of the young, sexy, and usually foreign girl. Some typical gags that can usually be found in Cinema Panettone are:

  • man almost kills himself on skis to impress hot blonde chick and finishes his downhill winter catastrophe completely naked because his clothes got caught on a tree on the way down … man’s balls are completely frozen
  • man hides naked on icy 4th floor windowsill to escape angry muscular boyfriend of the American girl that he has been trying to sleep with …  man falls and in one way or another hurts his balls in the process
  • Man farts at restaurant with hot girl that would never actually be seen with him in real life … man tries to get up quickly to excuse himself only to find that his balls are somehow stuck to the tablecloth, thus overturning everything and spilling red wine all over the ample bosom of the girl

These films are usually panned by critics (and justifiably so) but tend to rake in the dough at the box office. Though shallow and predictable, these films can get a laugh out of me from time to time and they work as far as simple entertainment goes. Plus, it’s an Italian Christmas tradition, so count me in!

Here are some Cinema Panettone movie posters for you to enjoy. Consider it my Christmas gift to you. You’re welcome!