Chalandamarz is a joyful spring custom celebrated in parts of the Romansh-speaking and Italian-speaking areas of the canton of Graubünden. Traditionally, this lively celebration takes place on or around March 1, the beginning of the Roman year.
Today, Chalandamarz is celebrated with great enthusiasm by schoolchildren. The young participants parade through the village ringing cowbells, bells, pianos and small goat bells, accompanied by cracking whips and cheerful singing. The purpose of this colorful procession is to symbolically drive away the winter and at the same time to ask for food and money from the villagers. The exact design of the festivities varies from village to village and is characterized by characteristic differences.
In Ftan in the Lower Engadin in particular, the wearing of masks is a firm tradition of Chalandamarz, which shows an interesting fusion of spring festival customs with elements of carnival. In Poschiavo and Misox, as well as in Scuol, Tschlin and Innerferrera in the past, it is customary to ceremonially burn a straw man, which symbolizes winter.
The festive celebrations often end with a communal meal and a merry youth ball. Chalandamarz is not only a colorful and lively custom that celebrates the transition from winter to spring, but also a cultural heritage that expresses people’s attachment to their homeland and their traditions. This cheerful spring custom fills hearts with joy and strengthens community building in the villages of Graubünden.
Chalandamarz gains worldwide fame with “Schellen-Ursli”
The “Schellen-Ursli” is a world-famous character, known both from the film by Xavier Koller, which was produced in 2015, and from the picture book by Alois Carigiet and Selina Chönz, which was published back in 1945. The story is about little Uorsin (Ursli), who doesn’t want an ordinary bell for Chalandamarz, but a really big bell. Determined, he makes his way to the snow-covered alpine hut to fulfill his wish. In the end, he is proud to lead the Chalandamarz procession and ring the big bell.
The story of “Schellen-Ursli” has made a name for itself as a picture book not only in Switzerland, but also in faraway countries such as China and Japan. The timeless message of the story, which tells of courage, determination and sticking to one’s dreams, has touched people all over the world. The picture book by Alois Carigiet and Selina Chönz has thus not only contributed to the preservation of the ancient Grisons custom, but has also built a bridge between different cultures.
The adventures of “Schellen-Ursli” are a valuable reminder of the importance of traditions and belief in one’s own abilities, not only for children but also for adults. The popularity of the story shows how such stories can bring people from different cultures together and convey a common understanding of humanity and solidarity. “Schellen-Ursli” thus remains a timeless icon of Swiss literature and a wonderful example of the power of stories to transcend borders.
Video Viva Chalandamarz!
On 1 March, the meteorological beginning of spring, the young people of the Engadin celebrate their traditional festival, Chalandamarz, with colorful parades, singing, the ringing of bells and the cracking of whips. The custom dates back to the Roman calendar and heralded the beginning of the year. Here are some impressions from Samedan.
Video SCHELLEN-URSLI | Official Trailer | Over 430,000 viewers
Based on the classic book of the same name “Schellen-Ursli” by Selina Chönz and Alois Carigiet.
The picture book by Alois Carigiet and Selina Chönz freely narrated by Irène Meier