The Appenzell Silvesterkläuse Celebrations Urnäsch
If you were to visit the town of Urnäsch or one of the neighbouring villages in Appenzell during their Silvesterkläuse celebrations you might be wondering what you had stumbled into! The Silvesterkläuse event takes place on 2 separate days – 31st December to celebrate the “Neuer Silvester” and usually the second Saturday of January for the “Alter Silvester”, and consists of processions throughout the centre of Urnäsch and surrounding villages with people dressed up in amazing costumes, colourful masks and fantastic headdresses.
Photographer Geoff Pegler was out in Urnasch with his camera to capture these amazing shots.
The festival dates back over 200 years and the participants go from house to house creating lots of noise, singing, ringing bells and ushering in the New Year with lots of fun and noise. It originates back to the olden days when people begged in disguise, but now the Kläuse, as they are known, wear eleaborate robes and masks and the idea is to wish everyone a Happy New Year.
There are three types of people depicted in the ‘Urnäsch Silvesterkläuse’ processions – the beautiful – die Schöne – who wear beautiful richly decorated headdresses and masks, the ugly – die Wüeschte – who wear frightening masks made of moss, and pine branches, and the pretty – uglies, or the less ugly – die Schö-Wüeschte – who wear natural disguises of branches and leaves but are less frightening than the uglies!
As they go from house to house wishing people a good new year they are given small presents of money to contribute towards their lavish costumes which involve hours and hours of work to make.
Everyone is in disguise and the “women”, or Wiiber, who are actually men, wear tall, elaborate headdresses and a belt with 13 bells attached. The men, or Mannevölcher, carry carved or painted scenes and wear a bell on both their front and their back. It’s all very heavy work and very noisy too!
The reason that there are two dates for this celebration goes back to the introduction by Pope Gregory XIII of the new calendar. Some Cantons refused to accept the new calendar and continued using the old one up to up the eighteenth century – hence the difference of 13 days for the festival! So if you missed the celebrations on 31st December – why not go along on 13th January?
You may also be interested in visiting the Appenzell Folk Art Museum to see the customs and traditions of the Appenzell region of Switzerland.
Update – More photos below from Carmen Sirboiu
All the photos in this article so far were taken by Geoff Pegler at the first Silvesterkläuse Celebrations on 31st December 2016. However, Carmen Sirboiu visited the second round of celebrations on Friday 13th January and she managed to get these beautiful snowy photos for us too. Take a look below:
All photos in this section by Carmen Sirboiu
The Appenzell Silvesterkläuse Urnäsch
Photo credit Appenzeller Tourism
For more information please visit the Silvesterkläuse celebrations here.
You may also be interested in seeing our article about another Swiss Traditional Celebration we saw recently – the Klausjagen celebrations in Küssnacht-am-Rigi.
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