Children chase away winter in age-old ritual

Boys with bells in the Engadine.

The Engadine resort of Scuol celebrates the beginning of the end of winter in early March with a colourful ceremony.

This content was published on February 23, 2002 - 11:06

Large groups of children march through the villages of the Lower Engadine, ringing cowbells and singing traditional songs.

The resort of Scuol holds the largest and best-known Chalandamarz festival on March 1. Young people gather early in the morning, dressed in traditional goatherd shirts and caps adorned with flowers made of silk or papier mâché.

A wagon leads the procession and is decorated with wreaths and a picture of a wolf. The ear-splitting bell ringing is meant to scare away the evil spirits of winter.

The children make their way to the well-preserved village square of Scuol where they sing their songs in a semi-circle and take a collection for their efforts.

In the smaller villages, the children make a stop at each house, finishing the exorcism with a round of traditional songs of spring. They are rewarded with fruit and nuts, and even money.

A bell for Ursli

The "Chalandamarz" bell-ringing procession was popularised in the classic Swiss children's story, "A bell for Ursli", which tells of the adventures of a boy "Ursli" in trying to obtain the biggest bell.

The whole region is hosting special events throughout the year to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Alois Carigiet, the illustrator of "A bell for Ursli".

There will be special exhibitions in the picturesque village of Guarda, which is believed to have inspired the illustrations, in Carigiet's birthplace, Trun, and at the Graubünden Fine Arts museum located in the cantonal capital, Chur.


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