TITLE: Silvesterklaus
TYPE: face mask
COUNTRY: Switzerland
SUBREGION: Appenzell Ausserrhoden
DESCRIPTION: Schöne Silvesterklaus Mask
MAKER: Verena Steiger (Steinen, Schwyz, 1955- )
CEREMONY: St. Sylvester’s Day (New Year’s Eve)
AGE: 1990
MAIN MATERIAL: cloth; wax
OTHER MATERIALS: paint; metal o-rings

On New Year’s Eve on both the Gregorian (December 31) and Julian (January 13) calendars, Appenzell Canton, Switzerland, sees yodeling mummers pass through the town wearing masks and elaborate costumes in honor of Saint Sylvester. The costume includes large bells and a headdress, although the appearance of the mummers varies. There are three types of Chlausen: schöne (pretty), schö-wüeschte (pretty-ugly), and wüeschte (ugly). This mask represents a schöne, and would be worn with an elaborate headdress with scenes of peasant life and a traditional Appenzeller costume. The ugly masks are skillfully made to look frightening, and the mask and costume are both composed of fir branches and needles, ivy, moss, or other natural materials. Pretty-ugly characters have the schöne mask like this one, but the natural costume of a wüeschte.

For more on traditional folk masks of the Alps, see Claus Hansmann, Masken Schemen Larven: Volksmasken der Alpenländer (Munich: Verlag F. Bruckmann, 1959).