Swiss Alpine Traditions

This content was published on June 22, 2006 - 16:18

Folk customs, old or new, tend to please people, many give them their support, either as active participants or as spectators. Calendrical customs are a sign of their respective seasons much as a field of daisies in full bloom signals the advent of spring.

The Alpine summer begins when farmers take their cows up to Alpine pastures in May and June. Midway through summer open-air celebrations and dances are organised on the Alps.

If early snow has not prematurely ended the Alpine summer, the herds are brought back down at the end of August or in September. For the trek back down the lead cow is decorated with flowers and a magnificent bell is hung around its neck. The Alpine diarymen and herdsmen often wear traditional costumes.

For the past 500 years in the Catholic mountain cantons of German-speaking Switzerland, one of the highlights of the Alpine summer has been the prayer call (Bättruef) which is a solo song sung by a man through a wooden milk funnel.

Summer is also a time for regional, cantonal and even federal competitions in yodel, alphorn blowing, Swiss Alpine wrestling (Schwingen), a kind of Swiss farmer's golf called Hornussen and stone throwing (Steinstossen).

A festival known as the Älplerchilbi at the end of the Alpine grazing season is celebrated in central Switzerland with a thanksgiving service, flag throwing accompanied by alphorn music, a festive meal, music and dancing. The event is also attended by masked figures representing wild men (Wildlütli and Tschämeler).

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