Silvesterchlausen is an impressive winter festival with pagan roots, celebrated on the new and old day of New Year's Eve in a few towns in the Canton of Appenzell Ausserrhoden.
All clause masques are traditionally men. The "beautiful clauses" wear richly decorated women's dresses, the "ugly" ones shaggy twig coats and demon masques, and the "ugly-beautiful" Silvesterchläuse 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" 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 as clauses in the boy's group.
The Silvesterchläuse meet in the wee hours in the town square for a silent meditation before starting their day. After that, they will be offered breakfast before starting their procession from house to house. They build a circle in front of a farm houses, shake their bells and start to sing. This special yodel is called "Zäuerli" and is unique to this region. Then they wish the inhabitants of the farmhouse a happy and prosperous New Year by handshake before they move on.
Urnäsch, Herisau, Hundwil, Stein, Waldstatt, Schwellbrunn, und Schönengrund
December 31 and January 12, 2013 (normally January 13, but when that date falls on a Sunday - as it does in 2013, it will be moved to Saturday). The routine is the same on both dates.
It starts at 5am. The men (then still 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.
If you don't want to participate in the early morning hours, you can see the Silvesterchläuse in the evening, when they visit the local restaurants.
Images: Federal Office of Culture FOC
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