Oh, those wacky Swiss. As if those giant horns, yodeling, and Heidi weren’t crazy enough, consider the antics that transpire around New Year’s Eve in the tiny Canton of Appenzell Ausserrhoden, in North-East Switzerland.
Typically, this area is remarkable only for the throngs of nudists congregating in its picturesque meadows (not in winter, though). But on December 31 (the current New Year’s Eve), and January 13 (New Year’s on the Gregorian calendar), a handful of the Canton’s towns are taken over by strange-looking processions of creatures.
The Beautiful, The Ugly, and the Not-So-Ugly
The “Silvesterchläusen” is a festival with deep pagan roots. It’s been running for 200 years and was originally just a form of begging in disguise. About those disguises…
The figures in the processions, all of whom are played by men, can be divided into three groups. The Schone are the “Beautiful” ones, wearing lovely women’s dresses and elaborate wooden hats featuring summer scenes. The Wüeschte are the “Ugly” ones, who wear demon masks and shaggy coats to scare away evil spirits. The Scho-Wüeschte are “Ugly-Beautiful,” and they are a mixture of the other two group’s garb.
Oh, and they all wear gigantic bells around their necks. But of course.
Have We Got Yodeling
Oh yes, there’s yodeling, don’t worry. On December 31, the revelers (the Silvesterchläuse) meet at 5a.m., then begin going from door-to-door, singing the special “Zäuerli” yodel, shaking hands and wishing the townsfolk a prosperous New Year. They do all over again on January 13, just to make sure everyone remembered.
On both days, the festivities carry over well into the night. If there are any yodeling-related fatalities, I bet this is when they happen.
I’m In! Where Do I Go?
The “Silvesterchläusen” only takes place in the towns of Urnäsch, Herisau, Hundwil, Stein, Waldstatt, Schwellbrunn, and Schönengrund in Appenzell Ausserrhoden, Switzerland, December 31 and January 13, annually.