Traditions in the Lötschental
During carnival week, "Tschäggätta" (frightful figures, clad in furs and wearing grotesque masks) liven up village life in the Lötschental. This pagan custom is practised from 3 February onwards in the Lötschental.
Has anyone not heard of the Lötschental Grenadiers of God? Along with the womenfolk in their brightly-coloured Lötschental traditional costumes they have been part of the solemn processions held on Christian holidays since time immemorial.
With the conservation of the ritual of the Easter Donation, Ferden has managed to preserve a memorial of a Christian sense of community, i.e. a custom that used to be common in a similar form in the entire alpine region. Every year, the milk produce of two days is processed into a special kind of cheese, which is then distributed to the inhabitants of Lötschental on Easter Monday. According to a medieval legend, this is done in order to break the curse of the Ferdener Alps.
The story goes that following the death of a cowherd who had become rich through illegal means, an ominous ghost came to haunt the Alpine pastures of Faldum, Resti and Kummen. The evil spirit chased the cattle from their stalls and chased them relentlessly through the mountains and valleys. The cows came back three days later. They had ears of corn between their hooves and produced bloody milk. The men responsible for the Alpine pastures therefore decided to offer the result of two day's milking to the poor people in the valley every year and from this day on the restless cowherd stopped his evildoing.
At the communal cellar, the cheese is turned into a fine mash, salted and filled into Rümpfe, carcasses, which are handmade every year from the bark of a fir tree. All tasks in this process – including the distribution of the donation that consists of cheese, bread and wine for adults to hundreds of guests – are done by specifically selected men from Ferden. After the morning mass, the children first stand in line at the parish hall to receive the so-called small donation. Then, the open council follows at which the citizens debate the Easter donation. In the afternoon, the guests from the other communities of the valley have their turn and then the women of Ferden. Last but not least, the men of Ferden receive their donation on Tuesday night.
Through the bright clear night can be heard from afar the pealing of bells and coarse voices: "Oh la la la, tournez Cleopatra..." A young boy wearing a long white cloak and a crown comes running up to you followed by a huge throng of people. Two dark figures follow him, with blackened faces and wearing wide robes “Z`Chinig Ross” and his two “Goigglär” are out and about again.
The Chinigrosslini appear on the saturday (07 january 2017, Kippel 6:00 pm Church) before theTwelfth Day. The king, his servants, and the Goigglär (jesters) begin their procession at dusk. The king’s horse begins to jump and dance through the alleys making the bells on its outfit jingle. The jesters then introduce the beautiful king to the public with their humorous and seducing words. The group then visits the families of the village’s dignitaries, while the choir sings New Year’s songs in front of the windows. The group is invited to feast everywhere they go. The procession ends at midnight.
The so-called Chinigrosslinun is the last Epiphany procession in the entire Valais. But even in the Lötschental the tradition is no longer regularly upheld, depending on whether or not the young are willing to actively participate.