The beauty of Switzerland is its diversity due to the different language regions. The Rhaeto-Romanic Switzerland is often forgotten. No wonder, the region in Graubünden accounts for less than 1% of the total Swiss population. But from Graubünden comes an ancient and super beautiful custom, the so-called Chalandamarz.

Chalanda März is THE custom of the Romansh-speaking Switzerland. Source: www.alpenjuwele.info
Chalanda März is THE custom of the Romansh-speaking Switzerland. Source: www.alpenjuwele.info

With cowbells against the winter

Chalandamarz is a Rhaeto-Romanic custom to herald the end of winter. In the Rhaeto-Romanic language, “Chalandamarz” also means the beginning of March. When the people of Graubünden have had enough of winter after many months of cold, snow and ice, they take the cowbells and goat bells out of the barn to chase away the winter and ring the bell.

Chalandamarz finances the school trip

Like their ancestors, the village boys go from house to house on 1 March to finish off the winter with the sound of bells and whips. So that the long-awaited spring will soon melt even the last remains of snow. The Chalandamarz also has a nice side effect for the school children. Because when the boys roam the villages with a loud roar, every household donates a chunk to the school travel fund. Chastognas cun latmilch” – chestnuts with whipped cream – are prepared especially for this festival. After the heavy bells have rung, the boys are well deserving of such refreshment.

When the Engadine people have had enough of winter, they bring out the bells. Source: www.graubuenden.ch
When the Engadine people have had enough of winter, they bring out the bells. Source: www.graubuenden.ch

Chalandamarz became popular thanks to the “Schellenursli”

The custom of Chalandamarz became known in the children's story Schellenursli
The custom of Chalandamarz became known in the children’s story Schellenursli

The custom was made famous by the children’s book “Schellenursli” by Selina Chönz and Alois Carigiet. The story revolves around the boy Ursli, who received only a small bell for the Chalandamarz. He is teased by the other boys in the village because of it and has to run at the very end of the procession the following day. But then Ursli remembers the big cowbell that hangs in his family’s Mayensäss. He sets off on the dangerous path through the deep snow up to the hut to get the bell. When Ursli shows up at home the next day with the big bell, he is even allowed to lead the procession.

Where and when is the Chalandamarz

The custom will be celebrated on Saturday, March 1, 2020 in the Engadine, Val Müstair and South Tyrolean Vinschgau, Bergell, Puschlav, Misox, Oberhalbstein and Albula Valley. Its design varies from village to village. Click here for a detailed programme overview.

Then rather Swiss German

Romansh is a mixture of Italian and Latin and is very difficult to learn. Even more difficult than Swiss German. That’s why you better sign up for our online course.

Chalanda Marz or the end of winter in the Engadin
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