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Out & About in Switzerland: The creatures of Kerns

A painting by the 19th century Kerns artist, Karl Zuber.

(Alperbruderschaft Kerns)

Thanksgiving festivals in the central Swiss Alps are unique and colourful affairs. One of the more eccentric - featuring a "wild man and wild woman" - takes place in the town of Kerns in canton Obwalden on November 3.

The festival, the "Alperchilwi", begins with a procession to the church to hear the priest's sermon praising God for the harvest. Then the local yodelling club breaks into song.

And that's when the fun starts in earnest. The wild man and woman - Hudee and Läsi - greet the crowd with farcical antics as it leaves the church.

The masked creatures remain the centre of attention for the rest of the day; chasing children through the streets, reading aloud humorous verses about the past year's events, and handing over the ceremonial cheese to the priest.

As with most traditional alpine festivals, there's plenty of traditional folk music accompanied by flag throwing and dancing, which continues well into the night.

At midnight Hudee and Läsi take centre stage with more verse, while girls in traditional costume take a collection to reward the creatures for their efforts.

The whole affair in Kerns is organised by the "Alpine Brotherhood", an ancient club originally made up of alpine dairy farmers who made a pact to come to each other's need in times of trouble.

Today, it has taken on more of a ceremonial role, and it's now an honour to be elected to the club, whether farmer or office worker.


Out & About in Switzerland is updated regularly to keep you informed of upcoming events, which may provide a different insight into the country and its people.

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