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Chasing away winter in the Engadine

Driving out evil spirits is a boys' job in Scuol

(Keystone Archive)

An age-old custom to chase away winter takes place in villages in the Engadine at the beginning of March. Large groups of children march through the streets ringing cowbells and singing traditional songs during the "Chalandamarz".

The resort of Scuol in the Lower Engadine holds the largest and best-known Chalandamarz festival on March 1. Youths gather early in the morning, dressed in traditional goatherd shirts and caps adorned with papier mâché or silk flowers.

The ear-splitting bell ringing is meant to scare away winter and all the evil spirits associated with the season. A wagon leads the procession and is decorated with wreaths and a picture of a wolf.

In smaller villages, the children stop at every house, finishing the exorcism with a round of traditional songs of spring. They are rewarded for their efforts with fruit and nuts, and sometimes money.

In Scuol, the children make their way to the village square where they form a semi-circle and sing their songs. The participants then take a collection to be put towards a school outing. Stingy onlookers are warned, according to the words of one of the folksongs, that a wolf like the animal pictured on the wagon will eat them.

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