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Drums, whistles and song to celebrate Corpus Christi

The sleepy village of Visperterminen becomes a hive of activity during the annual Corpus Christi celebrations. www.heida.ch

Every year on the second Thursday after Whitsun, the 1,500 inhabitants of the small community of Visperterminen in canton Valais, prepare for a grand parade to celebrate the festival of Corpus Christi.

This content was published on June 4, 2001 - 11:15

From Thursday June 14, the whole town will be a hive of activity, with people busy putting the finishing touches to costumes and tuning musical instruments in readiness for Sunday June 17, the day of Corpus Christi.

As well as busying themselves at home, the community will pool its creative talents on Thursday evening when it builds and decorates four altars with flowers, pictures and candles.

On Sunday, Visperterminen's priest, Thomas Michlig, will use the altars to give blessings to his flock.

At 8.30pm on the eve of Corpus Christi, the town's children will gather in the main square carrying tambourines, drums and recorders for ten minutes of music making, which acts as a warm-up for Sunday's procession.

Then it is off to bed for a few hours sleep before the 4.15 am wake-up call from the church bells which ring out long before the sun even considers rising.

Half an hour later, the streets are filled with the sound of laughter and song as musicians take up residence in one of the town's three squares until 6am.

Two and a quarter hours later the whole town joins in the merriment with a parade of beating drums, banners and colourful costumes. Everyone congregates in the main square and then parades to the doors of the church

Outside the church, little girls, all dressed in white and wearing crowns, stand next to their mothers in traditional costume.

With another peel of the church bells, the congregation enters the church and the Corpus Christi service begins from one of the decorated altars.

At the end of Mass, a pistol is fired and the parade begins. The little girls, carrying holy statues, follow behind the drummers and flag carriers, who are followed in turn by the priest, choir and those who have taken holy communion for the first time.

The procession starts at the church and passes through many of the town's narrow streets.

It finishes two hours later back at the church where the priest gives another Mass and blessing.

After the religious services, the congregation then heads to the town hall where they raise a glass to celebrate the holy festival. Their goblets are filled with the town's very own wine, a white tipple called "Heidawein", which at 50 per cent proof is not for the faint-hearted.

Apart from its colourful Corpus Christi celebration, Visperterminen is also well-known as the highest wine-producing town in Europe.

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