Ode to the arguably most beautiful day of the year

Chalandamarz is a colourful, lively, and loud tradition. This Romansh custom takes place every March 1st. Author Carmen Baumann has known Chalandamarz since her childhood. The day remains one of her all-time favourites.
byCarmen Baumann

Carmen Baumann is resident content manager and passionate Romansh speaker. In her opinion, March 1st should be a holiday. Until that happens, she typically takes the day off.

My three highlights of the year are spread over three months. In chronological order, they are Christmas, Birthday, and Chalandamarz. The first two are self-explanatory; the latter may raise a question mark for some.

The meaning of Chalandamarz is quickly explained: Chalandamarz comes from the Rhaeto-Romanic language and means "first day of March". So far, so good.
This day is an annual event for all children in the Engadin – and also those in Val Müstair, Bregaglia, Val Poschiavo, Val Mesolcina, Oberhalbstein and Albula Valley. During Chalandamarz, winter is bid farewell with singing, cowbell ringing, and whip cracking, and the imminent arrival of spring is celebrated. Admittedly, it will still be at least two months before the warmer days truly come to the Engadin. The tradition varies slightly from village to village. Until 2022, Chalandamarz in the municipality of Zuoz was mainly a male tradition; it wasn’t until 2023 that girls were allowed to participate in the folk festival – and sing wholeheartedly alongside the boys.

In the village of Champfèr, where I grew up, girls have always been fully involved. An example of equality: Because I was the oldest in my class, I had the honour of carrying the “plumpa,” the largest bell. Often an honour reserved for boys only – and honestly, I celebrated it and was very proud.
A little fun fact: This is the same bell that the famous Schellen-Ursli searches for in the eponymous book (A Bell for Ursli) and film and then finds it in the Maiensäss. If you haven’t read Selina Chönz’s book, with illustrations by Alois Carigiet, or seen Xavier Koller’s film, it’s a must!

Chalandamarz is one of my favourite days for many reasons. The Romansh culture is deeply rooted in me; I am proud to be Romansh and to belong to a linguistic minority of 30,000 speakers. Chalandamarz is an important part of Romansh culture: Without Romansh, there would be no Chalandamarz, and without Chalandamarz, Romansh culture would not exist to the same extent.

Every 1st of March reminds me of those nine years I actively participated in Chalandamarz as a child. I know that not everyone feels the same affection for this tradition as I do, but for me Chalandamarz was and still is a matter of the heart. Waking up on March 1st to the chirping of birds and the gentle ringing of bells still gets my heart racing – as does the first run down a freshly groomed ski slope. Add the colourful flowers made of tissue paper, the "rösas" made by the children, the traditional blue or red farmer’s blouses, and the Engadin Sunday dresses worn by the older girls. These dresses are more than just custom-made clothing; they are hand-embroidered with unique flower appliqués and are traditionally passed down from mother to daughter.

And, of course, Chalandamarz wouldn’t be Chalandamarz without the singing. My active “career” in this tradition may be long over, but I still know every song by heart. And yes, the songs make me feel a bit sentimental. That’s why every year I look forward to March 1st, when the voices echo through the streets again: “Eviva il Chalandamarz” (Long live Chalandamarz).

Finally, some detailed information about Chalandamarz 2024:

  • In St. Moritz, Chalandamarz begins at 7:45 a.m. with 10 different processions starting from various locations. Just follow the sound of the bells.
  • The parade with all the school children starts at 10:30 a.m. from the Quadrellas car park to Rathausplatz (Town Hall Square), followed by singing.
  • At 3:45 p.m., the parade with all the school children starts from the Ludains ice arena to Plazza Rosatsch, followed by singing.
  • On the eve of Chalandamarz, on February 29th, four groups will visit various hotels and restaurants. Details about the hotel singing can be found at the respective hotels and restaurants.
  • On March 1st, the children of Silvaplana School will be singing at 5 p.m.at the Suvretta House. If you would like to plan your afternoon tea accordingly, you can make a reservation here.
  • Details about Chalandamarz in the different Engadin villages can be found here.

Do you have any questions? Contact us at content@stmoritz.com

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Chalandamarz in St. Moritz

On 1st March, winter is ceremoniously driven away with singing and the ringing of bells and spring is officially ushered in.
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