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Geissle Chlöpfe or the art of scaring winter away

From November 3rd until December 8 the streets will resonate to the sound of whips being cracked rhythmically. This is an old Swiss pagan tradition, in this area particularly linked to Kriens, where the cracking of the whips is supposed to scare the winter spirits away; it also announces the coming of the Samichlaus times, culminating with the Chlaus processions which take place around December 6 to 8. Kriens will hold its procession on December 8.

The whips known as “Geissle” are wooden sticks with thicks ropes tied to them, the ends of which are braided into an ever thinner strands and culminating into a “Zwick”. By swirling the sticks and then suddenly stopping the motion it produces a sound not unlike that of a firecracker.

Boys usually are the ones who enjoy doing some Geisle Chlöpfe and there are some ground rules to ensure everyone is safe. First it can only be practiced in open spaces with enough room for people to get around without being hit. Geissle is not allowed over lunch and between 22.00 and 8.00 and will have to cease completely after December 8.

You can buy Geissle in various places, I saw them in Von Moos and Vonarburg and I’m pretty certain they’re available in Landi.

There are classes in how to crack the whip correctly in Kriens, children need to be 8 or older; more information here.

For purist it is worth noting that Küssnacht am Rigi has a different style of doing Geisle Chlöpfe as shown here:

charlie.hartmann@livinginluzern.swiss

Charlie Hartmann is the managing director of the Livingin organisation which focuses on helping international residents connect, grow and thrive in Switzerland.

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