Customs in Lower Engadine
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Even more than in Surselva, the communities of the Lower Engadine keep alive the ancient local customs as an expression of their Romansh heritage. In Ramosch and Tschlin, two hamlets 10km east of Scuol, the Mattinadas tend to overshadow even Christmas and New Year. On January 2, the local children organize a parade through the village dragging a decorated sledge behind them and collecting bucketsful of home-made sweets and candy (mattinadas); after a communal feast, everyone then embarks on an evening of dancing until midnight, whereupon the kids sit down to another banquet, this time of traditional butter biscuits smothered in whipped cream. The whole procedure is then repeated either the next day, or on the Saturday following, by the young men of the village.

Epiphany celebrations (January 6) in the Lower Engadine communities take the form of Bavania, or Buania. In the afternoon, the village girls gather together and draw lots to choose a lover; they then visit their allotted man and, to mark their conquest and Fate’s irrevocable decision, they tie a red ribbon round his neck. Later that night, at the village dance, the girls are waited on and chaperoned by their ribboned partner … presumably, happily ever after.

In Scuol, the first Saturday in February sees the ceremonial torching of the Hom d’strom, or Man of Straw, in front of the town’s court building, probably as a symbolic banishment of the winter. Perhaps the biggest celebration of the lot, though, takes place in many villages on March 1 – the children’s festival of Chalandamarz or Calonda mars. This originates in the Roman New Year celebration Calendae Martii, and these days takes the form of a colourful spring parade, with cowbell-ringing and traditional songs.

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