"Amateur dramatic performances, visiting among friends, and general merrymaking characterize the first day of the New Year, which generally is observed as a quiet holiday.
In some places roast goose with chestnut stuffing is traditional to the day. Goose necks, filled with ground giblets, seasonings and other ingredients, are a favorite delicacy when thinly sliced and served with between-meat snacks. Housewives vie with one another in making special New Year's bread rich with milk, butter, eggs, and raisins, while birewegge, or pear pie (which looks like a shiny loaf of bread and has a rich filling of pears and raisins) is a popular seasonal treat."
In many areas the second day of January is devoted to gay neighborhood parties in which nuts play an important part. In early autumn children begin hoarding supplies of nuts for Berchtold's Day, when they have "nut feasts." Nut eating and nut games, followed by singing and folk dancing are features of these Berchtold Day gatherings. One favorite stunt of the boys and girls is to make "hocks." Five nuts make a hock--surprisingly difficult to construct--four nuts placed close together, with a fifth placed on top.
FESTA DI SANT' ANTONIO
In Bellinzona, Locarno, and other towns and villages throughout the canton of Ticino, the ceremony of Blessing the Animals is an important rite. Owners curry their horses, mules, and donkeys until their coats shine, then adorn the beasts with bells and ribbons and take them in procession to church. Often the family dogs attend the parade, barking and jumping joyously as the larger animals are driven in state toward the sanctuary doors.
On the first of March boys of the Engadine "ring out the winter" and announce spring's arrival with a picturesque old custom. The youths put on herdsmen's costumes with wide leather belts from which they suspend as many large cow bells as they can collect. Smaller bells hang from their necks or are strapped across their chests. Other lads, who represent the cows, put bells around their necks and follow the "herdsmen." The children go about from house to house, clanging their bells with enough uproar to make winter speedily retreat, and serenade housewives with an old spring song:
For over six hundred years the city of Zurich has symbolically driven out Winter and welcomed Spring with the traditional Sechselauten, Six Ringing Festival, which is observed on a Sunday and Monday early in April. The festival originated in the Middle Ages when the trade guilds governed the city. On the Monday following the spring equinox (March 21) it was customary for the cathedral bells to start ringing at six, instead of seven o'clock--the usual time--to announce the end of the guild member's working day. This first day of change from winter to summer schedule was celebrated as a guild holiday. For centuries the bells rang as a signal to cease work. Gradually the general public sought to join in festivities. Finally the Six Ringing, which started as a purely guild holiday, became an affair in which all of Zurich's citizens shared.
Organized cow battles are unique to the canton of Valais. Each spring during April the Queen Cow of the village herds is determined by pitting the cows against each other in battle. The cow that holds her own against all opponents and comes through the encounter victorious, is proclaimed Queen Cow of the year.
Alp Aufzug, the procession of animals driven to upland pastures in early spring, is a picturesque sight and a festive occasion in every valley hamlet. Every year the village men and older boys set out in early spring for crude mountain huts, situated at an altitude of six to eight thousand feet, to look after the cows and goats and make butter and cheese for autumn marketing. The women and children remain at home, tending crops and gardens and bringing in the hay.
"Some time before Lent--usually the Sunday, Monday and Tuesday preceding Ash Wednesday
One of Switzerland's most magnificent spectacles is the Basel Carnival which opens in the market square at four o'clock in the morning with fife and drum performances by the bands of various companies. Just as Basel's clocks strike four lights go out all over the city. From every direction fifers, drummers and masked marchers in fantastic costume, pour into the square. In the procession that follows, four men in each group carry immense transparencies which, like many of Valencia's fallas, mercilessly satirize local politics and politicians. Other marchers carry colorful lanterns attached to the ends of long poles. The transparencies, like the fallas, are created in secret by professional artists. Later awards are given for the most unique or original contributions."