Chalandamarz is one of my favourite regional customs. The word is Romansh and means ‘the first day in the month of March’. On this day, the children celebrate the end of winter with a procession through their village, with boys in blue peasant blouses and pointed caps and red scarves around their neck.
The boys shake their bells as vigorously as they can
and those old enough crack their whips to make the loudest possible racket:
It is, of course, an honour to have the biggest bell:
The famous story of ‘Schellenursli’ (A bell for Ursli) by Selina Chönz with illustrations by Alois Carigiet tells of Ursli’s adventures when he goes in search of the most beautiful and biggest bell. Below, one of Carigiet’s famous pictures
and a coin minted in Ursli’s honour, below:
Ursli is second only to Heidi when it comes to fame as a hero in a Swiss children’s book
After the procession, the boys form choirs and sing traditional songs:
Last, but not least, girls have traditionally only been allowed to observe in their beautiful dresses, but this is slowly changing.
When it is all over and before returning home exhausted, a break is called for: