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The Carnival in Evolène

16 / 02 / 2022

Small description of the stuffed animals of the carnival of Evolène

Although there is no written record of the origin of Carnival in the Valais, historians indicate that some of its customs date back to prehistoric times, when the first masks were found. Rituals intended to scare away evil spirits during the winter were already practiced in the Bronze Age in Valais. This was to protect the villages from avalanches and the spring to arrive. It is certainly from this period that the origin of the stuffed animals of Evolène for example goes back to.

Cuddly toys and stuffed animals

In Evolène, the carnival already starts on the day of the Kings' Day, January 6th, with some young people who go around the village to announce the coming celebrations by shaking cowbells. Then the "plushies" make their appearance. These strange characters dressed in untanned skins of chamois, sheep or fox with legs surrounded by strips of cloth tied with strings, wear painted wooden masks that usually represent animal heads, true works of art carved by the craftsmen of the region. Alone or in groups, armed with bells, they have fun scaring passers-by. And then, on the same day of the carnival, it is the turn of the "stuffed" to take the village by storm. Dressed in jute bags filled with straw, they wear a mask and a broom of rice. On Shrove Tuesday, the population burns the "poutratse" or the winter man. This is the end of the spirit kingdom and the beginning of spring.

The traditions of Carnival are still very present in Evolène. It is here that one can admire the Peluches and Empaillés, but also the Maries, who are young men disguised as women wearing the traditional Evolénard costume and who re-enact, with the help of a few lines in patois, scenes from the life of Marie, a former inhabitant of the village.

Carnival has always been linked to the end of winter and the arrival of spring. In order to symbolize this passage of season, the tradition in some villages is to build a winter man (also called poutratze in patois), made of wood or paper mache. He is then judged and "put to death" on the stake. If the winter man burns quickly, it means that the summer will be hot. If he takes a while to burn or the fire goes out, it means that summer will be rainy.

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