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A customary New Year

The lights of Scuol on a winter's night.

(Scuol Tourism)

Ushering in the New Year takes on many shapes in Switzerland. In some towns and villages, age-old customs are still in practice.

The Bernese town of Laupen celebrates the end of the year with a tradition called the "Achetringele", meaning bell ringers. A group of schoolboys descend on the old town from the castle swinging and rattling large bells.

They're accompanied by other boys carrying homemade brooms and pigs' bladders. After farewell speeches are made to see out the old year, they beat the onlookers until their brooms and bladders are in tatters.

Things don't quite get so out of hand in Wil in the eastern canton of St Gallen. Many people in the town hang oil or candlelit lanterns outside their homes on New Year's Eve.

Shortly after dusk, hundreds of children proceed through the town carrying their own handmade lanterns, singing hymns. The tradition was originally known as the "inspection of the lanterns", when a committee went door to door to ensure compliance with a regulation on emergency lighting.

In Scuol in the Lower Engadine, villagers take part in the custom known as "Glümeras". They put homemade candles in pieces of bark or walnut shells, and let them float in the village fountains.

The origin of the tradition has long been forgotten, but it's believed to be closely tied to pagan rituals marking the winter solstice.

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