Share a Lovely Swiss Tradition - Alpabzug - With me!


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.

Christmas Bell knitted ball from "55 Christmas Balls to Knit by Arne and Carlos

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

Take a look at the steep, steep steep foot paths the sheep (and their keepers) must navigate twice a year! Here - be sure to scan all 5 images) and one more 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.

wooow this swiss alp is

wooow this swiss alp is awesome. I haven't been there myself, only we have flyed years ago to our vaction over it.
but it looked not the same.
the airplane windows were dirty and it was less impresive. but ... the idea of having it seen in real made it all cool.LOL
LOL my mum have knitted those balls as well, but she don't understand the USA knitting paterns, so she knitted them all with just two needles.
i have explianted it many times to her, but she didn't wanted to listen. so i have put it iside. i think it's the age she has.
but still love the way she tries to knit the whole time small items.
with one eye.
that must be difficult.
so i appriciated her xmas knitted ball she had made for me as a gift.
those alp pictures remembering me of old vacation trips of John, filled with touristic items. I 'm having his old special stick which he has used on the walks on the mountains. in every place you could add of the village a small tin label.
Lovely idea don't you think? I have refound him and he is hanging in the door path on the coatreck.
thank you for the sharing and have a fun week
many dutch hugs of me

I remember reading in Heidi

I remember reading in Heidi and other books about this. As someone who grew up on a dairy farm and had to go get the cows in the summer I could relate, even though my trek was only out to the pastures behind the barns.

We have also gone to :

It was fun to watch and the other events such as the folk dancing was interesting.

Kathleen!  How lucky you are

Kathleen!  How lucky you are to live close enough to attend.  In trying to keep my little article short and to the point, I didn't go into the fact that in many cases the "cow trails" and roads are lined with spectators welcoming the livestock home and festivals similar in nature to the one you shared in the link  do follow their safe arrival.  

We are not that far away really - a good day's drive and Ketchum is such a gorgeous area - maybe one day we will venture over for the festival!

Pam, I just had to share with

I just had to share with you that your Christmas Bell image is in the google search you shared of goats in procession. Isnt't that fun, how quickly that happened? :)

Crazy - right?  I don't know

Crazy - right?  I don't know what to say Dawn!!  If I had taken an picture of a cow or a goat, i would have been MUCH happier about it!  However, if by seeing it and linking I inspire a few people to knit Christmas Balls - that is a "good thing"  Thank you for sharing. ;-)