Greiflet originates from the dialect terms ‘greifflen’ or ‘gräufflen’ and describes the performance of farces by disguised and masked figures. The Greiflet centres on the theatrical mocking speeches.
The custom of holding noisy processions during the Greiflet began in the 16th century. Back then, however, this was still the task of the village’s young men. The first dedicated Greiflet association, the ‘Schwyzer Greifler’, was set up in the canton’s capital in 1917 to oversee the event’s organisation. The 1968 Feast of the Epiphany marked the premiere of the ‘Priis-Chlepfä’. This is a contest between the best whip-crackers in the canton. It has now established itself as a custom.
Today, two speakers appear before the public. They are also known as ‘Plödner’ and use their satirical verses to look back over the year’s events. This includes sharp-tongued, amusing and even malicious commentary on local events and personalities. Another key feature of the Greiflet is the loud procession of the Trychler (cowbell ringers) and Geisselchlepfer (whip-crackers). Up to a hundred or more participants make their way through the village, driving out the evil spirits with bells, cowbells and whips. During the day, young Greifler are also out and about, ringing cowbells on people’s doorsteps. Some receive a small present for driving out the spirits.
Greiflet is a custom found exclusively in the inner part of the canton. For many generations, it has been customary to loudly drive out evil spirits on the Feast of the Epiphany on 6 January.