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Why this part of Switzerland has two New Year’s Eves

Why this part of Switzerland has two New Year's Eves
A wüeschti makes his way across a snowy field. Photo: MICHAEL BUHOLZER / AFP
In the Swiss canton of Appenzell Ausserrhoden, January 14th is New Years Day. Here’s how the local residents - along with a group of traditional characters known as Chläusen - celebrate the day.

If you live in Appenzell Ausserrhoden, this may be (at least) the second time in two weeks that you wake up with a cloudy head and a set of ambitious resolutions for the upcoming year. 

January 14th marks alter Silvester (Old New Year), the traditional celebration based on the Julian calendar. While the church tried to ban the celebration for centuries, local villagers kept it alive – and it now attracts tourists from all over the world. 

A Schuppel discusses the evening's events. Photo: Depositphotos

The centrepiece of the New Years Eve celebrations take place in the village of Urnäsch, where villagers dress up in traditional costumes and toast the coming new year. 

One year, two New Years Eves (and two parties)

So does this mean it’s lights out at 8pm on the 31st of December? Not at all – in Appenzell Ausserrhoden, revellers can experience the best of both worlds. 

A group of schöni. Image: MICHAEL BUHOLZER / AFP

Residents celebrate both the Julian New Year alongside the New Year of the Gregorian calendar – and plenty of days in between. 

While the tradition was out of fashion for some time, it has roared back into life in recent years – probably not least because it doubles your New Years eve celebrations.

Not the olympic rings. Image: MICHAEL BUHOLZER / AFP

Santa Chläusen?

On January 13th, revellers in traditional dress known as the ‘Chläusen’ will roam the streets of the canton in a group known as a ‘Schuppel’. They ring their bells and chant a wordless song known as the ‘Zäuerli’. 

The Chläusen roam the countryside and the villages, wishing local residents a happy new year. 

A determined schöni. Image: MICHAEL BUHOLZER / AFP

And in true Dickensian style, there are three different types of Chläusen: the beautiful one (nicknamed schöni), the ugly one (nicknamed wüeschti) and the beautiful-ugly one (nicknamed schön-wüeschti, in the interests of creativity). 

Schöni wears delicately adorned women’s dresses as well as pristine porcelain masks, while the wüeschti wears a collection of fur, twigs and branches. What about schön-wüeschti? A combination of beautiful dresses and branches, of course. 

The motley bunch scare away bad spirits for the coming year, while wishing everyone well (presumably in achieving all of their most ambitious resolutions). 

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