Wednesday, December 30, 2015


Klausjagen is an annual Swiss festival that I'd seen advertised for the past three years. Until 2015, I was always in the USA on December 5. Having traveled earlier this year, it was possible for a visit to Kussnacht am Rigi (name of small town) to see this event.
It takes place after dark which made it convenient for Tom to meet me on the train after work and head there together. Sadly, it was a drizzly night, but at least it wasn't pouring rain. Lots of folks were there to have some "brats" and wait for the procession. 

men in white will later be in the procession

just an alley - procession didn't go down it

the white shirted men have whips

The wait seemed very long and there was uncertainty among not only us as to when and where the procession would come. Eventually it came right past us.

From the very informative website
"On December 5, the eve of St. Nicholas' Day, the village of Küssnacht, on the shores of Lake Lucerne, glows in the light of some two hundred enormous, transparent bishops' miters, which have been artfully designed, cut out of cardboard, assembled, and lit by a candle from within. This Iffele, or headdress, is worn by the men, who accompany St. Nicholas on his way through the village."

The men walked very close together and as they went, they turned around. It made taking pictures of their headdresses very difficult. 

real candle inside

photo with flash shows full costume
many had St Nicholas on the headdress

I kept wondering why they were spinning and I'll never know the answer. There was plenty of beer flowing and I can't imagine the spinning was helping the men walk.

whip crackers in front
Before and in between the folks with the headresses, there were men walking along cracking whips. This seemed very dangerous to me. I have no idea how well they were paying attention to their aim. I had my hood up and head slightly to the side. It was definitely nothing to lose an eye over! If you've never had the opportunity to hear whip cracking up close and personal, rest assured it is very loud.

more whip crackers

There were also hundreds of men (and I don't think I'm exaggerating) carrying large cow bells and swinging them. This is also very loud. There seemed to be no reason for this sound other than to try to deafen us. Again, I was glad that my hood was at least partially protecting my ears.  (There is no picture of the bell carriers.)

Again from
"The streets echo with the sound of heavy bells carried by strong men, horn blowing, and especially the peculiar triad rhythm of a brass band accompanying the chant of Mänz, Mänz, Mänz, Bodefridimänz. Clemenz (Mänz) Ulrich tried unsuccessfully in the 1920s to convert the wild chasing of St. Nicholas by village youths into something more civilized. His successors had better luck in 1928, when they founded an association to maintain and preserve the Klausjagen custom" 

This was the oddest brass band I have ever experienced. They played the same pattern in unison for what seemed like ages, but was probably only 10-15 minutes.  For the musicians among you, it went like this: "do (halfnote), do (halfnote), do, mi, sol, mi (quarternotes), do (whole note).  Repeat ad infinitum. Or also known as 1, 1, 1, 3, 5, 3, 1 with same time values. There were a lot of people making this also very loud. Maybe that was a secondary theme of the day? I did not notice any chanting accompanying the instruments. To say it was monotonous is a huge understatement. I even had it stuck in my head after they passed!

Another loud group had cow horns. They randomly just "honked" on them. What an annoying sound. This continued as long as they were processing.

cow horn group

Finally, St. Nicholas appeared

After the procession passed, the crowd began to disperse and we headed back to the station for a train home. It was an odd event as so many Swiss festivals are. This time we were "underwhelmed" and glad we had not invited others to join us. We can check it off the list and don't need to go again!