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Vrooommm Santa Claus! Basel on St Nikolaus Day

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„Santa Claus“ is actually Saint Nikolaus and his holiday is December 6. In Basel they call it „Samichlaus“, and it is an important event. Basel is full of santas that day, respective the Saturday that is closest to Dec 6 (in that year Dec 6 was on a Saturday). Nikolauses, or rather Nikoläuse to use the correct German plural, are everywhere in the shops and streets. Kids can take a ride in a horse-drawn carriage with Nikolaus. One was in a canoe on the Rhine. Later I even spotted a dragon boat with some 20 Nikolauses rowing, unfortunately it was too far away to take a photo. There was also kind of a barrel organ festival in the city with musicians everywhere. And the Christmas market is on.

The Nikolaus's dress is usually the same as the Weihnachtsmann respective Santa Claus wears: red coat and pointed hat with white furry borders, long white beard and so on. Only those who 'work' for churches will wear a bishop-like outfit that resembles the original Saint Nikolaus, bishop of Myra.

Nikolaus often comes with a companion, Knecht Ruprecht or Schmutzli. The guy in black is the counterpart of good Nikolaus who can be Nikolaus' helper but also the scary one who punishes bad deeds.

Many shops have their own Nikolauses distributing sweets to children. Most are dressed in the usual Santa Claus outfits. Some look different, though. The strange blue creature is the mascot of a shop in Basel. They dressed him up with a Santa hat for the occasion and let him distribute sweets to the kids. Understandably the littlies were scared of him, though...

In one square, three men dressed up as The Three Holy Kings or Magi were collecting money for a charity project that helps homeless people. If anyone threw a coin into the hat, they would bang their sticks on the hollow ground of the little stage.

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Harley Niggi-Näggi Parade

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However: Forget everything you ever heard of reindeers, sleighbells and stuff. Modern Santa Claus rides a Harley!

The Harley parade takes place on the Saturday closest to St Nikolaus Day, December 6, at 5 p.m. The city centre stops its shopping activities, people line up on the sidewalks to see the „Harley Niggi-Näggi“ parade.

This event is organized by the North West Switzerland chapter of the Harley Davidson club to raise money for charity. They do a parade through the city centre to Marktplatz, where they will then collect donations.

About 40 or 50 bikers dress up and decorate their bikes with incredible imagination. You hardly see the bikes underneath all that Christmassy decoration. Absolutely hilarious and not to be missed.

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Santa and Mrs Claus go biking together

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How many Christmas trees fit on a Harley? At least four.

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One guy dressed his motorbike in fur and turned it into a donkey. So shall we call it a "Harley Donkeyson"?

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Another transported a whole herd of plush reindeer.

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Other use artificial fir garlands, glittery ornaments, blinking chains of light in all colours.

In case anyone wonders about safety: Yes they do wear helmets underneath. Yes Police accompanies the parade and keeps spectators out of the way.

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My recommended place to watch is in the middle part of Freie Straße (the pedestrianized shopping street) between Streitgasse and Bäumleingasse, because the parade passes here twice. They come from Barfüßerplatz, turn right into Freie straße, then do a loop through the side lanes and return along Freie Straße towards market square. The parade passes quickly, hence it’s good to see them a second time.

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Posted by Kathrin_E 23:49 Archived in Switzerland Tagged christmas events basel

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