FIELD NOTES: The Rites of the „Silvesterchläuse“

The turn of the year is celebrated twice in Appenzell Ausserrhoden. A small county in eastern Switzerland. The celebration takes place after the new gregorian calendar on the 31st of December and once after the old julian calendar on the 13th of January. On these days, groups of men running with bells and chimes through the small mountain villages, singing and chanting an old form of the yodel – the “Naturjodel”. The faces are hidden behind masks and the men are called “Silvesterchläuse”.

 

They come in the early morning from remote hamlets, move from house to house to wish everybody a good year and to exorcize the evil spirits from the old year. Some of them appear delightfully and look like puppets, some of them show up in horrific costumes made out of materials from animals or the backwoods. For hundreds of years these rites have been taking place on that Swiss plateau. Nobody knows exactly, where the rite comes from…

 

 

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