Chalandamarz – driving out of the demons of winter

Chalandamarz happens every 1st of March and is a rite of spring dating back to ancient times, maybe even to Antiquity. It is practised mainly in the Upper and Lower Engadin (also in Val Müstair, Bregaglia, Val Poschiavo and Oberhalbstein). 

Chalanda is the Romansh term for “first day of the month. It stems from the Latin word calandae. Marz means March. 

On this day, in earlier times, the chairman of the community, the district secretary and the treasurer were legitimated. 

Schoolchildren walk on this day, dressed in costumes in bright, lively colours through the villages wearing their bells (boys) and flowerbaskets (girls). Sometimes, they carry whips with them and show their skills with the whips. The cracks produced by the whips are supposed to scare the spirits of winter away. 

The paper flowers for the bells and costumes are produced quite a while before Chalandamarz. They are called rösas and are  carefully made of silk paper. In some villages, there are strict rules how the paper flowers have to be made, in which colours, who has to make them and to whom they can be given. Mostly the girls create the rösas for a boy they like (their crush) and also invite him to lunch for the next day. But also the younger children craft the flowers in school or kindergarten, one flower for every year of life.

  
There are even several kind of bells: Talacs, Plumpas, Maruns, Brunzinas, Zampuogns and Rolls (Bell details). 

   
The schoolchildren walk around in the villages, around the village fountains (have a look at the famous book A bell for Ursli) and go into the houses to ring the bells to drive out the demons of winter. Sometimes, if you ask them, they sing a song and they appreciate it if you give them in return some sweets or some money for their school excursions.

  

At a certain time, they gather at a designed place (in St. Moritz: parking space Du Lac) and sing several traditional songs for the crowd, consisting of tourists but mostly parents and relatives. 

  
Here you find the text for the most famous and popular song: Song text. You can find also some explanations and pictures from earlier days (in German and Rumantsch). 

  

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