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December - Klausjagen (Chasing the Claus), Switzerland

SWITZERLAND | Monday, 21 November 2011 | Views [4463]

Location: Küssnacht, Switzerland

Dates: 5 December

Level of Participation: 5 – take revenge for all those years you didn’t get the present you asked for

Description:

Cast aside any preconceptions about the restrained nature of the Swiss as you watch them beat up on a fellow named Santa Claus. On the eve of St Nicholas Day, the good folk of Küssnacht, on the northern shores of Lake Lucerne, drag out their whips and cow bells for one of the country’s more unusual parades.

Dating back to the Middle Ages, when evil spirits were chased away with cow bells, but banned in the 18th century after it all became too raucous, it was revived when St Nicholas was co-opted into the event to hide the pagan overtones.

The parade begins on Seebodenstrasse at 8.15pm and is led by whip crackers. Behind them come men wearing iffele (huge paper bishop’s hats, some more than 1m high) lit from within by candles. St Nicholas himself is next in the queue, ‘chased’ by groups of up to 500 people clanging cow bells and honking on cow horns. It’s enough to make Santa want earplugs for Christmas.

Safety Advice: It might be best to leave the large paper hat (with a lighted candle inside) wearing to the professionals (or the bald).

In general Swiss people are known the world over for their honesty and integrity

And there is very little serious crime. What petty crime exists is mainly aimed at tourists and focused on the visitor attractions in major towns. Most of the crime occurs at festivals and during the peak summer holiday season and includes bag snatching, pick pocketing, thefts from cars that have stopped in traffic and stealing from unattended cars.

In each canton there are traditions and ways of doing things, and the mountain villages all have a unique set of rules. It might seem oppressive to the casual observer, but it's the Swiss way of doing things and it seems to work. If you're visiting, try to go with the flow and enjoy it.

When you’re heading home from the festival be aware the blood alcohol limit for driving a car is 0.05%. Penalties are strict with a heavy fine or a jail sentence. Nothing unusual there, but if you hold a driving license and are travelling in the same car as a drunk driver you may also lose your license as it is considered you are just as irresponsible for letting them drive. 

Essentials: You can add to the cacophony by bringing along your own cow bell.

Local Attractions: Küssnacht is located at the foot of 1797m Rigi, one of Switzerland’s most spectacular mountains and the site of the world’s first mountain railway. You can ride a train to Rigi-Kulm station, just below the summit, for gorgeous views.

More Info: www.klausjagen.ch


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Information provided courtesy of Lonely Planet
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Tags: klausjagen, switzerland, world festivals

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