January 2, 2011

Berchtold's Day – Switzerland

This day commemorates Duke Berchtold V, who founded Bern, the capital city of Switzerland, in the twelfth century. (Do you remember how centuries are named? If it is the twelfth century, it's the 1100s. In this case, 1191.)

According to legend, Berchtold promised to name the new city after the first animal he killed in a hunt. He promptly hunted and killed a bear, which is called bern in German. To celebrate the founding and naming of the city, as well as Berchtold's hunting feat, the holiday is a family-oriented day that (for some unknown reason) centers around nuts.

At Berchtold Day gatherings, people eat nuts and play nut games, and they also sing and folk dance.

One of the nut games is making “hocks,” which is four nuts placed close together, with a fifth perched on top. Apparently this is difficult to do (although I imagine it depends on the type of nuts!).

Going Nuts for Nuts

What is a nut? It is a hard-shelled fruit of some plants. Biologists only call some of what we call “nuts” true nuts; a true nut, in biology, is a composite of the seed and the fruit so that the fruit does not open up and release the seed. (In other words, the seed is not free of the fruit.) True nuts include hazelnuts, chestnuts, hickories, and acorns. The most commonly eaten nuts are not (biologically speaking) true nuts.

Here are some nuts in that category (in other words, nuts that are not true nuts):

Brazil nut
pine nuts


(A legume is merely a family of plants that includes peas and beans.)

Nuts are delicious and nutritious—packed full of protein, dietary fiber, unsaturated (heart-healthy) oils, vitamins, and minerals! Unfortunately, some people have nut allergies. (Most people with nut allergies are either allergic to peanuts or to one or several families of tree nuts—but some people are allergic to both. Yikes!)


  • Here are some healthy nut recipes, and here are some nut recipes of the sweet-tooth variety. 

  • Here is a nut-toss game to try, and here is a nut-race game. Another nut race is trying to puck up nuts using only a straw. Each player has his or her own straw and cup. When the race starts, the players suck on the straw in order to lift nuts and move them into their own cup.

  • Don't forget to try your hand at building hocks!

No comments:

Post a Comment