On New Year's Eve and on 13 January ("Old New Year's Eve"), an impressive winter custom sees celebrations in the hinterland of Ausserrhoden. "Schuppeln", or groups of men dressed up as “Chläuse”, make their way around the local farms. Upon reaching a farm, they form a circle, ring their bells in time with each other and perform a wordless yodel (a "Zäuerli"). They wish the family a happy New Year and are rewarded with money before moving on to the next farm.

Nowadays the New Year Chläuse are divided into three groups: the beautiful, the ugly and the beautifully ugly. The beautiful Chläuse wear full traditional dress decorated with silver lacing. On their heads they wear bonnets or hats elaborately decorated with glass beads, foil and cord and depicting scenes of everyday life. The ugly Chläuse wear shaggy coats covered in twigs, leaves or straw and cover their faces with demonic masks made of papier mache. The beautifully ugly Chläuse also use natural materials for their costumes, but theirs are intricately designed, just like those of the beautiful. Most of the members of the groups represent male figures and wear cowbells around their necks or carry two large dairy bells on both their front and back. There are at least two female figures in each group. These figures are called "Rollenweiber" and wear up to thirteen round, slitted "Rollen" bells around their torsos. The custom is very much a male affair, with the participation of girls extending only to children's groups.

Detailed description


Oral expressions
Performing arts




“Zäuerli” (a form of yodelling without words) with the characteristic bells ringing in perfect time (from the CD “Chlausezäuerli”) © Chlausegruppe Stein AR, 1997

A group of Chläuse from Urnäsch singing “Chemifeger Fässlers”, a two-part “Zäuerli” by the local Chläuse family Fässler and one of the few songs with a name (from the CD “Am Alte Silveschter z’Urnäsch”). © Cyrill Schläpfer/CSR Records Zürich, 1991


Regina Bendix, Theo Nef: Silvesterklausen in Urnäsch. St.Gallen, 1984

Hans Hürlemann: Brauchtum im Appenzellerland. Herisau, 1996

Hans Hürlemann: Urnäsch. Landschaft – Brauchtum – Geschichte. Herisau, 2006

Thomas Lüchinger: Guets Neus. Sschöö, wüescht ond schööwüescht (Film). 2011

Werner Mezger: St. Nikolaus zwischen Kult und Klamauk. Ostfildern, 1993

Thomas Rickenmann: Silvesterchlausen (Film). 2011




Appenzell Ausserrhoden
Amt für Kultur

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