Rustic New Year’s Eve in Urnäsch
The beautiful and the wild
In Appenzell, they rebelled against the church authorities and are still bearing the fruits of it today: the Urnäsch New Year’s Eve hermitage is held twice a year.
Highly conspicuous figures are recognizable in the landscape.
Every year, the Schuppel meet with their ornate hats, striking wooden masks and bell-studded costumes. In Urnäsch AR there are still around 30 of these men’s and boys’ groups – and even if they like to wear women’s masks: “Chlausen” is and will remain a men’s business.
The move from house to house begins early in the morning, many of which are inhabited by former New Year’s Eve claus: the Schuppel sing their songs to the residents, reflect on the past year together and loudly wish them a Happy New Year.
deterring evil spirits
The origin of the «Chläuse» is not exactly known. Today, most people see this tradition as a variant of the custom of St. Nicholas, but above all as a beautiful and good tradition that used to be understood as a means of scaring off evil spirits. The old custom lost its importance during the Second World War, but has regained popularity in recent decades and is now one of the liveliest customs in Switzerland – which also attracts many domestic and foreign tourists.
In the evening after the spectacle there is an opportunity to continue listening to the singing in restaurants. The Silvesterklausen was first mentioned in writing in 1663. At that time, the church authorities felt disturbed by the noise and tried to put an end to what was considered pagan superstition. From 1776 to 1808, the Chlausen was even punished with fines.
But places like Urnäsch successfully defended themselves – yes, the Christmas Eve is even celebrated twice a year here: New Year’s Eve is celebrated on December 31 according to the Gregorian calendar, on January 14 according to the old Julian calendar.