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Winter and spring brawl in this ancient Swiss tradition

There are many traditional customs in Switzerland marking the transition from winter to spring. One of them, the “Eierleset”, is an ancient tradition involving eggs, elaborate costumes and a physical fight between the seasons.

First, eggs are lined up along the road leading through the village. The Eierleset officially begins when participants pick them up.

First comes “team spring”, a costumed troupe consisting of a masked wedding couple and the “Hüehnermaa”, or the “chicken man”. In the past, he held a hen in his arms to show everyone where the eggs – a traditional symbol of fertility –  came from.

Then come the members of “team winter”, in costumes stuffed with straw. They are accompanied by an elderly couple, the counterpart to spring’s newlyweds.

Village authorities consisting of a “priest”, a “policeman” and five representatives from the local gymnastics club act as judges in the battle of the seasons. They are often former participants on “team spring” or “team winter” who don’t want to wear heavy costumes anymore.

Preparations for Eierleset begin weeks ahead of time. The costumes are fetched from storage, improved and adapted. Some of them have to be sewn directly to the body. The “Strohmuni” – team winter’s largest straw costume – is the last to be stuffed with up to 30 kilos of empty straw.

According to the event’s website, Eierleset represents “the awakening of nature, the victory of spring over the already tired winter.”