Season‘s Greetings 2017 from PDF Tools - The traditional chronicles of Swiss Christmas, Part 12

Make some noise for spring - Chalandamarz

Picture: © Copyright Sils Tourismus
Photographer: Gian Giovanoli, Sils Maria

E viv 'il chalandamarz!

Make some noise for spring

Chalandamarz is an ancient tradition that has been celebrated in the Romansh-speaking part of the Swiss canton of Grisons since Roman times. Where does the word Chalandamarz come from and how is this tradition celebrated? 

The word Chalandamarz comes from the Latin kalendae; Chalanda means ‘first day of the month’ and Marz stands for the month of March. It’s a tradition for both young and old – the procession is celebrated a little differently in every Grisons village, but in all of them it is the most exciting day of the year. 

Swiss children have long been enchanted by “A Bell for Ursli”, in which the young Ursli can hardly wait for Chalandamarz because he has been promised the largest bell in the village. However, the father of a spoiled village boy buys the bell promised to Ursli from its maker, leaving Ursli with only a tiny bell for the procession. Ursli doesn’t let this get him down and heads to the snow-covered alpine hut far from the village to get the largest bell “Plumpa” of them all. 

Originally, 1 March was when elections for public offices were held and winter was chased off: the boys would process with cowbells through the village, after which they ate and danced with marriageable daughters. 

Preparations for this old tradition begin early. Songs are memorized at school and the Rösas, flowers made of tissue paper, are made at home. 

Every boy has to find his own cowbell for the procession. All of them aim to carry the largest bell “Plumpa”. In addition to procuring their bell, each boy asks a girl if she will accompany him as a flower girl during the parade.

The boys dress in blue tunics with red caps and the girls wear traditional Engadine outfits. Together, they travel through the still-snowy village with their bells and flowers and sing the songs they have learned. A decorated float filled with donations and food for the children follows the crowd. Today, the Chalandamarz procession announces – with songs, bells and whistles – that spring has arrived and winter has been chased away.

We wish you and your family a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

Your PDF Tools team