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Christmas in a jar and Klausjagen

December 8, 2009

This year I feel like Christmas snuck in more than “arrived” since stores have been pushing Christmas wares since October.  But we’ve cleared both Thanksgiving and Saint Nick’s day, so until it’s time to buy our Christmas tree from along the quay, I fall back to the next best thing.  Christmas in a candle.  I was beside myself when I found this brand of candle in Switzerland after the one shop in the U.S. that I knew of went out of business.   Geodesis’s Balsam Fir.  I’m a sucker for a good candle.  Not readily available?  Go for Thyme’s Frasier Fir.  (I may even like that one more)

And as an added bonus, the same weekend of buying my new candle, we went to see Saint Nick’s arrival at the Klausjagen parade In Kuessnacht am Rigi.  3 Christmases here and somehow we’ve never managed to  catch this parade.  Six stages of totally foreign Christmas culture:

Stage 1: Guys with whips, please make note of the people cowering in the back.  You would too, trust me.  Nothing clears a crowd like a guy with a rope whip and seemingly little regard for human safety.

Stage 2: The lights!!  Clearly the show stopper (so I’m not sure how it comes second and not last), but men dressed in white robes “dance” with Iffelen, which are large ornate paper hats which resemble a cross between a bishop’s mitre and a stained glass window, lit from the inside by candles.  They range in size from 3 feet to as tall as 7.  Stunning.  The pictures simply don’t do it justice.

Stage 3: Saint Nick.  Who arrives with his companion, Schmutzli, Switzerland’s version of Holland’s Black Peter.  Schmutzli is hands down the biggest bit of culture shock for me since he dresses in a black hooded gown, runs around with his face painted black, scaring children with either a stick broom or the threat of kidnapping.  And yes, it’s jarring and makes me slightly uneasy.  Not the beating of the children so much as the painting of the face.  Just not done.

Stage 4: The brass section.

Stage 5:  The bells section.  Mr. KC with his machine-like number calculating skills managed to estimate 900 men carrying bells.  And not just any bells.  Bells designed for genetically engineered super cows.

Stage 6:  Horns.  Finally, the horns.  Now, with all these musical sections, don’t imagine some top-40 Christmas song to be played here.  Much more Lord-of-the-Rings-marching-to-Mordor type sounds than 12 Day of Christmas.

So, there you go.  Klausjagen.  And since I didn’t do such a hot job of capturing Saint Nick in the parade.  Here’s a shot of a lone Santa (not officially associated with the parade) peering out over the water in his platform, white, patent leather boots.  Wonder where Schmutzli went?

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