"Silvesterchlausen" is a unique winter festival with pagan roots, celebrated in a few towns in the Canton of Appenzell Ausserrhoden. "Silvesterchlausen" takes place on New Years Eve (31 December) as well as on the Old New Year on January 13 (Gregorian Calendar).
All masques are traditionally men. The "beautiful Clausen" wear richly decorated women's dresses, the "ugly" ones shaggy twig coats and demon masques, and the "ugly-beautiful" or forest-nature spirits wear a mix of both. All of them carry bells: The "Schelli" wear large cow bells (the bells weigh up to 30 kg / 66 lbs: the "Schelli" carry them around all day, quit a demanding task), whereas the "Rolli" or "Rollwieber" (Rolli women) wear smaller "bullet-bells" on two leather straps in the front and back of their torso.
Usually, the "Silversterchläuse" appear in groups of six; two "Rolli" and four "Schelli". Procession participants are men only. Girls are allowed to participate in the boy's group.
The "Silvesterchläuse" meet in the wee hours in the town squares of each village for a silent meditation before starting their day. After that, they wander from house to house where they build a circle, shake their bells and start to sing a special yodel called "Zäuerli" which is unique to this region. Then they wish the inhabitants a happy and prosperous New Year by handshake before they move on.
Urnäsch, Herisau, Hundwil, Stein, Waldstatt, Schwellbrunn, und Schönengrund
December 31 and January 13 (when that date falls on a Sunday, "Silvesterchlausen" will take place on Saturday). The routine is the same on both dates.
It starts at 5am. The men (without masques) meet in the village squares. During the 15 minutes of silence, neither photographing with flash nor street- or headlights are allowed and it is customary to keep quite.
In the evening, the festivities of "Silvesterchlausen" continue on the streets and in Restaurants.
Images: Federal Office of Culture FOC
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