The Klausjagen St Nicholas Procession Küssnacht am Rigi

The Klausjagen St Nicholas Procession Küssnacht am Rigi

The Klausjagen St Nicholas Procession Küssnacht am Rigi

 

The Klausjagen St Nicholas Procession Küssnacht am Rigi

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.

The Klausjagen St Nicholas Procession Küssnacht am Rigi

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 Klausjagen St Nicholas Procession Küssnacht am Rigi

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 Klausjagen St Nicholas Procession Küssnacht am Rigi

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 Klausjagen St Nicholas Procession Küssnacht am Rigi

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.

The Klausjagen St Nicholas Procession Küssnacht am Rigi

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.

Klausjagen Küssnacht am Rigi

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.

The Klausjagen St Nicholas Procession Küssnacht am Rigi

It’s an extraordinary celebration and the streets are packed with people young and old enjoying this old Swiss tradition. Happy St Nicholas Day!

 

The Klausjagen St Nicholas Procession Küssnacht am Rigi

All photos (except the first two and the fourth photo)

by photographer Carmen Sirboiu

Klausjagen Küssnacht am Rigi

Where: Küssnacht am Rigi 

When: 5th December every year

Time: 8pm – but best to get there around 6pm or 6.30pm to see everything

Find out more about the Feast Day of Samichlaus here.

See Google map showing where Küssnacht am Rigi here:

The Klausjagen St Nicholas Procession Küssnacht am Rigi

Samichlaus Day – 6th December – Samichlaus in Zurich

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Swiss Traditions – Zibelemärit Bern’s Onion Market

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