If there is one Swiss holiday tradition not to miss it is most definitely Klausjagen in Küssnacht am Rigi.
Every year on the eve of St. Nicholas Day, crowds bundle up and gather in the small village of Küssnacht. Here in this village off of Lake Lucerne is the Klasujagen, otherwise known as the St. Nicolas Chase - a festival to welcome Samichlaus, the Swiss version of St Nicholas.
After sunset, all the village street lights are turned off to mark the start of the procession. To begin the parade, thunderous whips are cracked and can be heard all along the route. Following the whips are hundreds of men carrying Iffele lanterns (90-190cm tall!) atop their shoulders. These beautifully detailed and glowing lanterns bob up and down the dark streets.
After the hundreds of lanterns, we welcome St. Nicholas himself with his sinister sidekick Schmutzli. Who is Schmutzli? Dressed in all black or brown, with a painted face and pointy black hat, he is Samichlaus' wicked companion. He usually carries a stick or whip, which in the centuries-old tradition, he uses to take the naughty kids back to the woods. His character remains widely-known (and feared!) and can be seen across various traditional events in the German-speaking regions of Switzerland. The duo are said to symbolize the duality of good and evil spirits.
The two of them pass out food and treats to onlookers. Following the pair are the farmers, swinging giant cowbells in perfect unison. To mark the end of the procession, trumpets and cow horns are blown by the last group of paraders. It’s truly an experience for your eyes and ears!
Once the procession ends, the lanterns are set along the route for spectators to take a closer look and snap photos.
As with most Swiss Christmas celebrations, there is Glühwein (mulled wine) and Wurst (sausage) stands and many celebrate at restaurants after the event.
How To Get There
Train or Car
This year (2022) the event takes place on Monday, December 5.
From Basel, drive or take the train to Lucerne. Once in Lucerne, go to the port (next to the train station). From here you hop on a ferry for a lovely fondue dinner.
The fondue boat to Rigi is very popular so you must book ahead. The boat boards at 17:45 and will take you to Küssnacht am Rigi with an all-you-can-eat fondue. When the event is over, it brings you back to Lucerne at 22:50.
Book the fondue boat here! Fondue Dinner Cruise to Klausjagen
For more information: Klausjagen Küssnacht am Rigi
This is a truly unique experience and I highly recommend making an evening of it and adding it to your holiday celebrations.