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Share a Lovely Swiss Tradition - Alpabzug - With me!
Submitted by Pam on Wed, 09/11/2013 - 20:54
We are well into September! Busy with settling our families into school routines; selecting our favorite heros to play on our fantasy football teams; planning and making costumes for Halloween; and maybe even some of us making plans for the Winter Holidays - gifts to make, gifts to buy. It is usually a busy time for most of us. But I hope you will make a little time to allow me to share a beautiful and ages old tradition taking place in Switzerland over the next couple weeks - the eagerly anticipated processions of livestock - cows, sheep and goats (as many as 800 in a given procession) - returning from alpine summer pastures in the Alps to their winter homes in the valleys.
Alpabzug, as it is called, is a colorful, rich traditional link to our neolithic past that is still being played out in villages and cantons throughout alpine regions of Switzerland. While Alpabzug is an important aspect of the seasonal cycle in Swiss mountain villages, it is not something most of us encounter here in North America; and I just think it is sometimes nice to remind ourselves, and especially our children, of how different and rich life is in other parts of the world.
So, to that end, I have assembled a few links to images and videos of cows, goats and sheep being led from summer pastures down ancient mountain paths to their homes in Swiss villages. You will find them at the end of the post.
To celebrate Alpabzug in my own home this year, I have just completed the "Christmas Bell" pattern from "55 Christmas Balls to Knit" by Arne and Carlos (find the book on Amazon here). The creator of the Merry Knitalong, Sarah at Knitting Sarah selected the Christmas Bell pattern as one of two September patterns because it made her think of school bells! Well! It made ME think of Cowbells! And Alpabzug!
The colors chosen were no accident! Green represents the verdant sweet grasses nibbled all summer in high alpine pastures, and the winter white background a reminder that winter is always on it's way.
Cowbells have been a part of raising free roaming livestock for over 3,000 years and as you can imagine over that time a rich artistic history has developed and many bells today are highly collectable. But regardless of how fancy or simple they might be, cowbells are essential to cow, sheep and goat herders in order to keep track of their herds. Wandering charges can be easily found and returned to the herd. Sometimes bells are carefully crafted so that specific members of the herd can be identified from all the others just from the sound the bell makes!
When you are viewing the images and videos in the following links, be sure to notice the bells - they are quite huge! And I don't know about you, but I am loving the sound made by a whole "herd of bells"!
So, now. Sit with me a while, won't you, and enjoy a little bit of Switzerland and Alpabzug.
Alpabzug video here. Notice once it is over, there are more video selections awaiting your curiosity!
Lots of images of cows in processions here
Beautiful image of flower bedecked cattle here Don't miss this one!
Sheep in Procession video here
Although goats are frequently used as guides for sheep and cow herds (they are considered to be the brightest of the lot), they are only just recently being raised in herds for meat and cheese and milk.
I could not locate a video for you, but did find these lovely images of goats in procession to share!
And Goats leaving their summer pastures in Rona here.
Thank you for sharing this little celebration with me!
Now why not make it complete with a little dairy based treat - cheesecake, custard pie, cream puffs, or perhaps English fairy cakes filled with a bit of whipped cream!
Special thanks to Maryline at Mary & Patch who helped set my feet on the right path so I could share this tradition with you; and to Martine at I Make who introduced me to the Merry Kal and "55 Christmas Balls to Knit". And to my Muse who is always looking for a reason to celebrate.