Did you ever wonder what would happen when you mix together cracking whips and ringing cow bells on a dark December evening? It probably never occurred to you to ask yourself such a question, which is not so surprising, since you probably never heard of Kuessnacht am Rigi’s Klausjagen. In the words of Comic Book Store Guy, quirkiest parade ever.
The “St Nicholas Chase” parade starts at 8:15, when a cannon goes off and the town’s lights get turned off. Then, along the cleared parade path (which really is a must for safety reasons), men wearing white farmers shirts walk down the route and stop at intervals so that they can take turns cracking their long sheep whips. Next come the iffelen, enormous head lanterns cut in the shape of miter hats. The lit lanterns are designed to resemble stained glass windows in churches. Once these walking headpieces pass, St Nick finally arrives. Waving from a safe distance, St Nick is kept from the crowd by torch-bearers, but his henchman Schmutzli (literally, little dirty one) hands out cookies to the children. However, the noisy fun really starts once the holy man has passed. That’s when a platoon wearing massive cow bells, literally hundreds of them, makes their way down the street. Strapped to the men’s waists, these bells are rung in unison, so that the sound drowns out all other noise. The constant ringing is hypnotic; its vibrations literally shakes your body. But the trance is broken by the tail end of the parade, a group of men who blow on cow horns. However, when I say “end”, I mean the last in this set, because the parade repeats itself going along the same route. Who could have guessed that Switzerland was capable of such racket?
Again, quirkiest parade ever.