The Klausjagen St Nicholas Procession Küssnacht am Rigi
***Due to Covid the event on 3rd December 2021 is now cancelled ***
There are many ways in which the St Nicholas custom is celebrated across Europe and we went to find out how it is commemorated in Küssnacht am Rigi. The celebration is called Klausjagen and takes place every year at 8pm on 5th December, the evening before St Nicholas Day.
The Klausjagen Procession
It consists of a procession of around 200 men wearing illuminated head dresses, known as Iffele and they walk through the town of Küssnacht-am-Rigi as up to 20,000 spectators look on. The whole town is in a festive mood with fairy lights and all the Christmas decorations glowing.
We arrived around 6.30pm in order to secure a good vantage point and to soak in the atmosphere. All around there were men dressed in herdsmen’s shirts, carrying large bells or pieces of rope as people piled into the food stands which lined the streets to fortify themselves with a hot Bratwurst and a Glüwein.
The Geislechlefper Crack Their Whips
The evening begins with a small cannon being fired at 8.15pm and at that moment all the street lights are extinguished. There are a number of “Geislechlepfer” taking turns to crack their whips in the street as crowds wait and watch.
The noise is earsplitting – and you need to stand back a bit if you’re at the front of the crowd, as one of the whips got so close it actually punctured and split my polystyrene cup of Glühwein which was sitting on the tarmac in front of me!
The Iffele Headdresses
After a while the men with the Iffele headdresses quietly arrive. The Iffele vary in shape and size and are made out of card and tissue paper and they resemble church windows or mosaics. We spoke to one man who had created his Iffele around 8 years ago.
He said it had taken him between 600 and 700 hours of work and it should last for about 30 years. The sizes, motifs and colours of the Iffele are all very individual. However, traditionally they always have a picture of St. Nicholas on the front and a cross on the back with the letters JHS.
As the procession walks through the town the streets echo with the ringing of cow bells in the darkness. Horns are sounded and the words “Mänz, Mänz, Mänz, Bodefridimänz” are chanted to the sound of brass instruments.
It’s an extraordinary celebration and the streets are packed with people young and old enjoying this old Swiss tradition. Happy St Nicholas Day!
With photos by photographer Carmen Sirboiu
Klausjagen Küssnacht am Rigi
Where: Küssnacht am Rigi
When: First week of December every year -please note it is cancelled for 2021 due to Covid
Time: 8pm – but best to get there around 6pm or 6.30pm to see everything
See Google map showing where Küssnacht am Rigi here: