HUNDWIL – At the crack of dawn on Saturday, masked men wearing elaborate costumes marched through a village in the Swiss Alps to offer farmers their best wishes for the New Year on the Julian calendar.
A group of Silvesterchlaeuse, sporting colorful clothes, smiling masks and huge cowbells that were strapped to their backs and chest, danced and sang in the village of Hundwil, part of the Appenzell Ausserrhoden canton, to mark the New Year.
Epa images showed them trudging uphill in the grey winter morning light, brights spots on the landscape in their huge headpieces that framed scenes from historic battles or else held up models of castles.
Traditionally, they visit every remote farmhouse while singing a high-pitched song that echoes through the valley.
After their cold march through Alpine villages while carrying cowbells that can weigh up to 30 kilograms (66 pounds), the Silvesterchlaeuse are given hot drinks, and houses they visit will often give them some money.
The procession takes place twice a year, on Dec. 31 and Jan. 13, to celebrate the New Year according to both the Gregorian and Julian calendars.