The Chlausumzug celebration in Egerkingen began to take its current form in 1995 with the first gathering in St. Martin's Church. The next year added a procession from the church and in 1997 there were craft afternoons for children and parents to make lanterns so they could join the procession. Six large lighted stars, representing the Star of Bethlehem were added in 2003. They are now accompanied by many smaller stars.
The distintive ifflelen, made with laminated paper, are designed and created by Wolfgang von Arx and Martin von Arb. To achieve the luminosity of gothic stained blass, the iffelen are made from paper that is laminated. Laminating these large pieces is expensive and each new iffele now has a sponsor.
The first iffelen showed St. Nicholas, then his legends were added. St. Martin, Egerkingen's patron saint, was the first non-Nicholas iffele. All of the iffelen are designed to illustrate St. Nicholas' message of charity and kindness. Everything illustrates the celebration's theme, "Follow the Light," the light that leads to Christmas. Other saints have been added to show how other people have followed the light.
The celebration begins on the first Sunday in Advent with a 5:30 gathering in the church. Excitement is high and every seat is filled. A student choir sings,the priest greets everyone and introduces Nikolaus. The good saint comes forward and tells one of his legends.
Meanwhile, participants have lined up behind the church and light the candles in their lanterns and iffelen. The 6 pm procession begins with over 150 lanterns and 50 iffelen. The priest reminds everyone that we all "Follow the Light" as "we are Christ's light-bearers in the world."
More than 1000 spectators from near and far line Martinstrasse for this spectacular lighted procession.
Following the procession, Nikolaus gives the traditional Swiss St. Nicholas sweet bread, Grittibänz, to all the children.
Up to seven Nikolaus make family visits in Egerkingen on December 5th and 6th.
PHOTOS: Chlausezunft Egerkingen. Used by permission.