Newly Swissed Online Magazine

Bizarre Festivals of Switzerland

Undoubtedly, these festivals pass as completely normal for 99% of Swiss.

However, they may seem totally bizarre to you and you seriously wonder how anyone could have thought of this stuff. As it turns out, these festivals are the result of centuries-old traditions combined with Swiss people's desire to simply have a good time. So, put on your diversity goggles and embrace the curious world of Swiss festivals!

Chalandamarz in Grisons

Chalandamarz in Graubünden

Chalandamarz Swiss Tradition

This March 1 festival is based on the popular children's story "Schellenursli", in which the protagonist retrieves a cowbell from a snowed-in chalet to participate in a parade like all the other kids.

So in the mountainous towns of Eastern Switzerland, boys will crowd the streets and create quite a "Bell Dorado". The thought is that the louder the noise, the faster the green pastures will grow (and evil spirits will vanish)...

Cowbells, anyone?

Sausage Tossing in Rapperswil

Eis-Zwei-Geissebei in Rapperswil

Eis Zwei Geissebei Rapperswil

This odd tradition dates back centuries: Every year on Fat Tuesday at 3:15 PM, hundreds of children and adults gather in front of the Rapperswil city hall.

In response to the mayor's question, "Are all my boys here?", the kids will effectively scream "One, two, goat leg!"

As a result, the mayor and council members will open up the windows and toss out sausages, loaves of bread, and pastries into the crowd.

Goose Piñata in Sursee

Gansabhauet in Sursee

Gansabhauet Sursee - Copyright Bruno Meier
Copyright Bruno Meier

Every year on the first day of the carnival, November 11, the town of Sursee celebrates what might most appropriately be called the "goose pinata". Odd as it seems, this custom was once very common all over Europe.

Essentially, young townspeople (!) will get themselves tipsy at city hall before covering their eyes and dressing up in a red cape with a gigantic sun mask. Using a saber, their main objective is to slam a dead goose to the ground with a single stroke.

No goodies inside the goose, though.

Appenzell Silvester Claus


Silvesterchläuse at Alter Silvester in Appenzell

On New Year's Eve and January 13, some freakish creatures will roam the streets of the Appenzell region in a quest for hot Glühwein.

Locals are quick to serve them because as the day drags on, they tend to get moodier (and thus scarier)... Our Christian was able to snap some pictures of this long-lasting Swiss tradition.

Hornschlittenrennen Giant Sledge Race in Brigels

Hornschlittenrennen in Brigels

Hornschlittenrennen in St. Johann - Courtesy Isar Pictures

Once a practical tool for alpine farmers, the horn sled has transformed into a racing and recreational device. The sport of horn sledding is still thriving in Breil/Brigels. Ash wood is the preferred choice for crafting horn sleds, as it combines hardness with elasticity.

Although it may look amateurish, this annual giant sledge race in Brigels has become more and more professional over the years. While most participate for fun, some teams have perfected their sled racing techniques to inch out a tenth of a second here or there.

In 2020, the nearly 800-meter-long Tgariel track opened. It has improved snow maintenance along with better transportation options for the heavy sleds.

Cow Pie Bingo


Does this require much explanation? Just take what Switzerland has plenty of (green pastures, cows, money), mix it all up, and out comes "cow bingo"! This game is also known as "Cow Patty Bingo" or "Fertilizer Lottery."

Have we missed anything? Have you run into some odd festivals in Switzerland? Do not shy away from sharing...

Dimitri Burkhard

As the founder, editor, and community manager of Newly Swissed, Dimitri owns the strategic vision. He is passionate about storytelling and is a member of Swiss Travel Communicators.

Dimitri loves discovering new trends and covers architecture, design, start-ups and tourism.


  • Great start! There are so many weird festivals in CH, you could never collect them all! Just want to point out that Chalandamarz is not based on Schellenursli, but vice versa. It’s just that no one ever heard of it before the book came out! Some other festivals that might qualify for your page: Basler Fasnacht and Vogel Gryff, and Zürich’s Sechselaüten. In Boniswil/Hallwil they have Bärtzeli (St. Berchtold’s Tag), which is similar to the Silvesterchläuse (probably *lots* of versions of this). I think has a festival page. Check it out.

    • To further add to this, Chalandamarz dates back about 2000 years. Also note how the name Chalandamarz is actually slightly disguised Latin.

      Also there’s “Solätte”, a spring festival, of which no one really knows anymore what it refers to or symbolizes.

      • Great that you’ve brought up “Solätte”! We’ll definitively look into it for a follow up post… ^Dimitri

  • These are all so awesomely hilarious that I think it’s impossible to choose a favorite. I think I can easily say that I would pass on the Goose Piñata, though.

  • In Zurich, they have something called Knabenschiessen, which seems to involve galloping horses in the streets, processions with fish being thrown into the crowds, and an exploding dummy. No shooting of boys, though, tempting though that might be.

    I suppose it’s the Swiss way of compensating for being obsessed with respectability, work and money all the rest of the year.

  • In St-Sulpice Vaud we have a Fete Du Printemps where we have a parade and then burn a papier mache doll to signify the end of winter. It is kind of like groundhog day, the quicker it burns the shorted the summer etc. I think it may be a german tradition?

    • Thanks so much for sharing! This sounds very much like the “Böögg” snowman from Sechseläuten, which is a Zürich tradition…

Dimitri Burkhard

Download our e-book: 77 Facts about Switzerland