Some men in canton Appenzell celebrate New Year’s Eve by singing carols to their neighbors while dressed with pine tree branches, acorns, wearing female-looking masks and very elaborate large headdresses. They are called the Silvesterkläuse, or the masked men of the New Year. They spend all year preparing their costumes for this event, particularly the headdresses. There are three general categories of costumes: the beautiful, the ugly and the perfected ugly. They hold it on two days, the present New Year’s Eve following the Gregorian calendar, and on January 13, following the Julian (pre-Gregorian) calendar’s New Year’s Eve. If the 31st of December or the 13th of January falls on a Sunday, the Silvesterkläuse do their caroling and regalia display on Saturday.
It is thought that the festivity goes back to the late Middle Ages. In the 15th Century, it seems to have become the custom of the monastery students to get loud and wild during Advent, something that did not please the Church. Writings of the festivity first date back to 1663 when it was proclaimed that the Church’s authority objected to the loud walking-around at night. It is thought that because of this, the celebration was moved to the New Year.
It is a deeply moving audiovisual experience which I hope you will enjoy in this video. I recorded the audio and video on Saturday January 12, 2013 in the village of Urnäsch in canton Appenzell.