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In Hundwil, the village where I grew up, a ritual is performed on New Year's Eve. Masked characters known as "Chläus" go round from house to house. They are dressed in elaborate costumes, they sing songs without words, and they dance, shaking the heavy bells they are carrying.

If you ask anybody in the village what they are doing and why, you will learn they are chasing away bad spirits. Few believe in spirits these days; ghosts and spirits have disappeared from the lives of most people in Hundwil. But this does not matter. Ritual, I think, is much less about meaning than we may assume. It is first and foremost about being. Going round from house to house as "Chläus" is just beautiful, exciting, and simply feels right. The "Chläus" are given mulled wine and some money in return.

Some of my former classmates arrive at the house. I do not recognise them. - Happy New Year! - Who are you? – Hansueli. – Ah, Happy New Year!

Happy New Year.

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