Season‘s Greetings 2019 from PDF Tools - The traditional chronicles of Swiss Christmas, Part 14

Mischief and masked monsters - Tschäggättä



Mischief and masked monsters

Myths, tales and legends have always inspired the human imagination. They are often accompanied by imagery that imprints itself on our memories. Customs and traditions stemming from ancient stories live on in our hearts and minds despite modern lifestyles and the “digital revolution”. One such tradition is Switzerland’s Tschäggättä carnival. As is the case with many old rituals, the origins of the archaic custom are not entirely clear.

The lively Tschäggättä carnival takes place in February, starting one day after Can-dlemas and finishing on Ash Wednesday. Noises and terrifying costumes are used to give unsuspecting passers-by an almighty fright. An organized parade winds its way through the villages, but the Tschäggättä carnival also has some spontaneous sur-prises up its sleeve. During this time, the likelihood of encountering one of the carni-val’s monstrous figures is high.

Only insiders are privy to who’s behind the masks. In order to preserve the carnival’s spirit of freedom, it’s important that the Tschäggättä can’t be recognized by friends and relatives out on the street. Fur-clad and wearing demonic masks, the figures make their way through the Lötschental valley’s villages, playing tricks on people along the way. They are accompanied by the noise of cowbells, which many of them carry with them to announce their presence. The most important Tschäggättä are characterized by their impressive masks, which are carved from local Swiss pine. The grotesque faces, which are sometimes decorated with bright colors, fur and teeth, put the finishing touches to the Tschäggättä’s appearances.

Getting into the costumes requires assistance, as it involves putting on numerous lay-ers of sackcloth, fur and cushions to achieve a hunchbacked appearance. A tight belt with a bell holds the costume together. The mask is the last element to be put on. With a wooden stick in hand, the Tschäggättä make their way out into the picture-perfect, snow-covered alleys of the Lötschental valley’s mountainside villages. The carnival used to be quite a rowdy one: people were followed, grabbed and then smeared with snow and ash. Nowadays, however, the practical jokes aren’t quite as harsh.

It’s uncertain whether the carnival’s origins lie in paganism, the Trinkelstier battle, or the “Schurten” thieves – nevertheless, the tradition is upheld in Valais with joy and passion. It’s a living piece of the Lötschental valley’s history and of Swiss culture.

The team at PDF Tools AG would like to wish you and your nearest and dearest happy holidays and a great start to the new year! Thank you for placing your trust in us. We look forward to continuing our successful work together.