Playing Santa in Samnaun, Switzerland
So firework night has been and gone and the cold November nights are setting in. You wake up to the first frost of the year and your thoughts turn to Christmas carols and the heady scent of mince pies baking in the oven. It’s still a month until Christmas but you really want to nurse that festive mood and keep it flowing until well past Auld Lang Syne. But how?
The answer lies in Samnaun, Switzerland. Nestled high in the Swiss Alps, Samnaun is the perfect place to set your winter season off with a swing. Every year on the last weekend of November, Santas from all over the world convene in this unassuming alpine village for the ClauWau – otherwise known as the Santa Claus World Championships.
Literally hundreds of Santas from the four corners of the continent arrive with their Claus sharpened, ready to begin the battle to find this year’s supreme Santa. This ClauWau is no easy sleigh ride. It is a grueling contest that takes place over two days, testing teams of four on some of the most important Santa skills.
For an early taste of Christmas revelry, there is nothing quite like it. Samnaun is a chocolate-box pretty Swiss ski resort, complete with gingerbread house architecture, snow-laden roofs and a dramatic backdrop of snow-capped peaks. Located close to the border where Switzerland meets its Italian and Austrian alpine partners, it is the perfect meeting place for secret Santas from nations far and wide to converge and fight it out over two days of reindeer harnessing, sleigh riding, chimney climbing and much, much more.
For all that this may sound exclusive, in fact any team of four can enter free of charge, as long as they are appropriately dressed in full Father Christmas attire. Samnaun’s nearest international airport is Zurich, which is around a three-hour drive away. Car hire is readily available at the airport, either pre-booked or on arrival, and there are public transport links too. With plenty of comfortable ski hotels and chalets to choose from, prices are surprisingly low for the weekend thanks to the fact that the winter sports season is only just getting going.
The atmosphere amongst the Santas is convivial, helped along by lashings of mulled wine and a dash or two of Jagermeister for the hardcore. Whilst being careful not to overdo it (there are chimneys to climb after all) a little warm up certainly does help to break the ice – while the singing at the welcome karaoke party has been known to break a few glasses too.
The ClauWau is just as fun to watch as it is to take part in. Plenty of laughter, jingling bells and the odd snowball to duck are the perfect tonic to see you through the next month in the office. And speaking of tonic, don’t forget to load up on yours before you leave. Samnaun is duty free – the perfect spot to stock up on your Christmas nectar.