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Posted on Sunday, November 19 - 2006

" Copyright Yahoo! NewsDemon masks intricately carved to frighten off evil spirits, village bonfires and figures dressed as horned animals are a common sight throughout the winter in Switzerland.Despite their position in one of the most modern and advanced countries at the heart of Euro..."

Masked revellers take part in the traditional Tschaggata carnival in Kippel, Switzerland, in 2003. During this pagan celebration, larger-than-life figures wearing fantastically carved demonic masks and animal skins trudge through the Swiss villag's streets, making a terrible din ringing cow bells and banging on doors to ward off evil spirits.

Copyright Yahoo! News

Demon masks intricately carved to frighten off evil spirits, village bonfires and figures dressed as horned animals are a common sight throughout the winter in Switzerland.Despite their position in one of the most modern and advanced countries at the heart of Europe, Swiss rural communities have clung on to remnants of their pagan origins moretightly than in many neighboring countries.A visit to any of the hundreds of ancient carnival festivities that take place from Appenzell in the north, to Loetschental in the southern Alps and throughout central Switzerland makes this clear. Larger-than-life figures wearing fantastically carved demonic masks and animal skins trudge through the snowy streets, making a terrible din ringing cow bells and banging on doors to ward off evil spirits. "Some of our festivals go back to before Roman times, others to the Middle Ages," said Christophe Gros, of Geneva's Museum of Ethnology. "Many were transformed during the 19th century when there was an effort by the (Roman Catholic) Church to stamp out pagan superstitions." The dates of Swiss winter festivals are asvaried as the celebrations themselves, reflecting the fluctuations of the old Julien calendar and the isolation of the villages, also perhaps a reason why the rituals have survived so long in Switzerland. The first winter festival is the Feast of St Martin, or Rabeliechtli, held in early November in some Swiss German cantons. It marks the end of the grape harvest with a custom of handing out gifts to children and wearing masks, a sort of blending of today's Christmas and Halloween customs. Halloween has not caught on in Switzerland despite an effort a few years back to introduce commercial jack-o-lanterns and Trick-or-Treat ideas from the United States. The Swiss prefer their own diverse ways of observing All Saint's Day and the Day of the Dead on November 1 and 2. According toIrene.......


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