Today Christianity celebrates Epiphany, or the revelation of Jesus Christ to humanity. Since living in Switzerland I tough that the catholic feast of the Three Kings was something else entirely than the orthodox one I was used to, Boboteaza = Baptism. It took me a while to understand that western and eastern Christians actually celebrate the same idea, the revelation of God incarnated as Jesus Christ and his manifestation to the world.
Here comes a Christmas tradition from a special canton of Switzerland, Appenzell Inner-Rhodes, the smallest Swiss federal state by population number and the last one to award women the right to vote in cantonal elections (only in 1991). Appenzell Inner-Rhodes is most known for the practice of Landsgemeinde, open voting by the raising of hands in the public town square, one of the oldest forms of direct democracy. This canton is also known for its unique folk costumes, naive paintings and agrarian traditions. Its relative isolation, it is located away from the main communication routes, was a contributing factor in the preservation of the specificity of traditional practices at various times of the year. One of these unique practices is the Chlausezüüg.
I still have one of the toys that Saint Nicholas left in my boots when I was a child, it’s a mother gorilla stuffed toy holding a baby gorilla in her arms. I had named her Uga because at that time I thought she looked like the daughter of Ugo Fantozzi, an Italian series my mother was watching on TV. I gave it to Friboy a while ago and told him that it was from Saint Nicholas, he was shocked because he doesn’t picture me as a child. I am his mom, I couldn’t have been a smaller person that believed in magic and waited impatiently for Saint Nicholas just like him. He never reacted like this when I showed him photos of me as a child, this gorilla made me that little girl in his eyes.
When I was a child, my grandmother and my mother would bake each year on this day our New Year’s fortune pie. Only recently in my ethnological pursuits I found out this was customary for the entire region where I was born, as part of the time renewal ritual practices. People would bake a sweet bread where they would hide a silver coin and whoever found it would be lucky the year to come. In time this sweet bread was replaced by a sweet cheese pie.
The Sense folk costume is unique in Switzerland, this type used to be worn by girls upon marriage. The headdress was marker of the marital status, like allover Europe and in other parts of the world. Nowadays the traditional costume is worn for the catholic Corpus Christi processions in Tafers and Dudingen.