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Here come Santa and the Christmas bishops

The more Santas the merrier (Clauwau.com)

Samnaun in eastern Switzerland is holding its second Santa Claus World Championship on November 30 to help kick off another ski season.

Less commercial but popular nonetheless is the custom of "Klausjagen" or the pursuit of St Nicholas which takes place in Küssnacht on Lake Lucerne on December 5.

The competition in Samnaun for aspiring Santas will include a reindeer rodeo, chimney climbing, a mulled wine rally and, last but not least, the entrants will be judged on their costumes.

More than 30 teams made up of four Santas apiece will be bidding for glory.

Samnaun's lifts connect it with the large Austrian resort of Ischgl. With 200 kilometres of ski slopes and more than 40 ski lifts, the two resorts form the largest ski area in the eastern Alps.

Klausjagen

At precisely 8.15pm on December 5 in the small village of Küssnacht, hundreds of men appear in procession, each carrying a heavy bell that is rung once with every step.

They are followed silently by dozens of others wearing giant headdresses in the shape of a bishop's hat.

Candlelight shines through intricate patterns carved out of the cardboard headdresses, which bear a striking resemblance to stained-glass windows found in Gothic churches.

Some are two metres high, weigh up to 20 kilogrammes and are the result of as much as 700 hours of work.

"Klausjagen" has its roots in pagan traditions, and was originally meant to scare away evil spirits.

It continues through the night, ending with a final procession through the streets at 6 am.

A number of excellent examples of the headdresses (Infuln) are on permanent display in the "Heimat" (heritage) museum in Küssnacht.

Arosa - just for laughs

The winter season gets underway in the eastern resort of Arosa with a ten-day comedy festival beginning on December 6.

Entertainers from around the world will bring their unique brand of slapstick, stand-up and pantomime to Arosa.

Evening and late night performances are held on stage in the village casino, while afternoon shows will take place in a tent erected on the ski slopes.

swissinfo


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