Season‘s Greetings 2015 from PDF Tools - The traditional chronicles of Swiss Christmas, Part 10

The traditional chronicles of Swiss Christmas, part 10

Silvesterchlausen in Urnäsch

..."Zäuerli", "Schuppeln" and "Schellen"

Dexterity and creativity are the order of the day as they carve, glue, embroider, paint, wire and shape their masterpieces. And the whole family usually has a hand in fashioning the dress and regalia. Including the headdress and cowbells, a costume can weigh a good 40 kilos or 80 pounds – which may be one reason why even today the Chläuse are usually men.

As with many age-old customs, the precise origins of the Silvesterchlausen are shrouded in mystery. However, there is certainly documentary evidence of this colorful and musical tradition dating back to the Middle Ages. Since then, the Chlausen has experienced periods of appreciation, tolerance and prohibition. Today, the Silvesterchlausen is a much-loved event – it’s even celebrated twice!

On December 31 on the Gregorian calendar and January 13 on the Julian calendar, the Chläuse gather early in the morning and meander from house to house in groups, or “Schuppeln”. There is a clear hierarchy: the “Vorrolli” leads the group, followed by the “Schelli” and the “Noerolli” at the tail end.

The “Schuppeln” wear headdresses with a theme unique to each group, and even the yodels, or “Zäuerli”, are composed specifically for the event.

When a group arrives at a house, the Chläuse stand at the door in a semi-circle and ring their round bells (”Rolli”) and cowbells (”Schelli”). Once the bell-ringing is over, the yodeling ceremony begins – a beautiful natural yodel with its roots in Appenzell. The Chläuse then wish the head of the household and his family a happy and prosperous new year and in return receive a warming glass of mulled wine, boiled cider or sometimes even a cash gift.

There are three types of Chläuse: the Beautiful, the Ugly, and the Nature and Woodland Chläuse. The Beautiful wear traditional silk garb and exquisitely ornate headdresses, usually topped by carved figurines depicting bucolic scenes. The Ugly Chläuse sport fearsome masks and garments made out of hay, straw, brushwood and sprigs of holly. The Nature and Woodland Chläuse are a cross between the Ugly and the Beautiful, and are a relatively recent addition to the Chläuse family.

At one time, the Silvesterchläuse tradition nearly died out – but today it is celebrated with renewed vigor. Even the children form their own “Schuppeln” and learn from an early age what it takes to be a good Chlaus.

We wish you and your loved ones a very merry Christmas and a spirited start to the new year!

Your pdf-tools team