In the heart of the majestic peaks of Monte Rosa, amid snowy landscapes, ancient forests, and old hamlets with wooden houses, lie the captivating Christmas traditions of the Walser people, steeped in authenticity. Their presence in the mountains has been crucial for the creation of traditions imbued with authenticity and deep meaning.
The day of Saint Stephen holds great importance in local history. Not only because it immediately follows Christmas and commemorates devotion to the first martyr, Saint Stephen, but also because, according to the Alagna tradition, it somehow reveals the altars of love! In 1840, Giovanni Giordani wrote to his friend, the theologian Farinetti: "In Alagna, the distribution of sacks has already begun, one given by Stafe Bartoli to Pietro Ferraris, another by one of Ruchlo's daughters to the youngest of the Malber brothers..." It was apparently a tradition for women to give a sack to their betrothed, symbolic of "I put you in the sack"? This took place around the time of this celebration.
The "delivery" of the sacks took place during a long-standing private house party. With the construction of the theater, the celebration shifted. Since the early 1900s, we know for sure that the festivities took place at the Union Alagnese theater with "The Youth Ball."
"Saint Stephen. Mainly a youth dance; dark attire was mandatory, preferably black for men, and white dress with an apron for the girls. During the evening, those close to marriage and the 'filarini' who wanted to keep their relationship hidden were targeted. Two young men with a hidden rope roamed the hall, and, picking a couple, quickly threw the rope around them, tying them as tightly as possible to make them noticed by all. In the next round, the young men with the rope were different, to avoid arousing suspicion among other suitors" from ALAGNA UNA COMUNITA’ WALSER.
The Folkloric Group "Die Walser Im Land" has created a dance to commemorate this tradition (Gürtil tanz). The Saint Stephen dance continues to be part of the local tradition that renews itself each year. The "young men with a rope" may be missing, but the story continues.
On January 5th, the "Eve of Epiphany": girls gathered in groups for a vigil, made highly salty migliacci to feel the thirst stimulus during sleep because, near the fountain where the girl would quench her thirst in her dream, she would find her future spouse. Also, on the evening of January 5th, it is recommended to place a bowl of water on the windowsill, which, freezing, will form the pattern of the future spouse's profession tools, according to ALAGNA UNA COMUNITA’ WALSER.
Centuries-old traditions, all centered around women. However, if you're not in the least interested in a future spouse or are already "settled," you can still try... something will happen!
The Christmas traditions of the Walser represent a cultural treasure that adds a unique touch to the festivities. Immersed in their ancient practices, the Walser teach us the importance of community, sharing, and respect for nature. If you're looking for an authentic way to spend the Christmas season, come among the peaks of Our Mountain and let yourself be enchanted by the magic of a Christmas that preserves its roots in the past and projects into the future. We await you!