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Chalandamarz - probably the best-known Engadin custom

Tradition & Customs

On 1 March 2021, the hearts of most Engadin residents will bleed. The ones who suffer most are the Engadin children, because for them Chalandamarz is the most important day of the year. What one could never have imagined is now a fact for the second time. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Chalandamarz has been cancelled.

Who does not know the famous children's book classic "Schellen-Ursli", Rhaeto-Romanic "Uorsin" by Selina Chönz, legendarily illustrated by Alois Cariget? This children's book, which has been made into a film several times, tells the story of the "Chalandamarz", which is celebrated on 1 March.

Even the name hints at the historical roots of this Engadin tradition, because when the Romans ruled over Raetia in the 1st century AD, the first day ("kalendae") in March ("martius") was considered the beginning of the new year, when the young men drove out the old year with a proper rumpus and welcomed the new year with a roaring party! Today it is the youth of a village who confidently drive away the winter and welcome the spring with a re-enactment of a drive to the alpine pastures. The Chalandamarz is very much in the spirit of the trail running fans, because they too are waiting for winter to retreat and open up the dreamlike trails of the Engadin again.

Wherever the "Chalandamarz" is celebrated in the Engadine, songs, tinkling cowbells and a cheerful children's ball with dancing and music play central roles. But that is as far as the common features of this colourful custom go (apart from the good humour of everyone involved); the diversity of the different Chalandamarz traditions in each village reflects the many facets of the Engadine. In all the patronage communities of the Engadin Ultra Trail, people cultivate tradition and celebrate Chalandamarz in their own way.

In Zuoz, the starting point of the EUT53, the Romansh language and culture are lived like in no other village in the Engadine. Here the Chalandamarz begins two days before 1 March. This is because the village is so extensive and because the community of Madulain, which forms a school community with Zuoz, is also included. The schoolboys go from house to house as shepherds and flocks with plumps and bells, singing songs to drive the winter away from all nooks and crannies. Whip cracking is practised from 1 February. Two Sundays before 1 March is "Prouva da Chalandamarz" - known in this form only in Zuoz - with the parade of bells around all the fountains in the village. On the actual Chalandamarz, 1 March, the procession ends on the village square with the cracking of whips, in which the older people also like to take part. In the afternoon and evening there is dancing and singing. It is also very special that in Zuoz the municipal elections are held on Chalandamarz day.

«Eviva il Chalandamarz!»

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