The Sennenchilbli fair is held every four years in Schwyz. The highlight is the festive procession on Sunday afternoon.
A Sennenchilbi (a ‘Senn’ is a dairyman. ‘chilbi’ means ‘fair’), also known as an Älplerchilbi (an ‘Älpler’ is an alpine farmer), is a fair carried out by societies that have evolved from the centuries-old fraternities. The oldest Sennen fraternity is that of Schwyz. Historic records state that the first Schwyz Sennenchilbi was held on 19 October 1575.
The chilbi used to be a religiously inspired harvest festival and takes place once the cattle have been taken back down from the alpine meadows. After long, lonely summer months, the alpine farmers came down to the valley and not only brought cheese and butter with them but also celebrated the joy of the free alpine lifestyle with dancing and singing. This festival was an important social gathering for the farming families and villagers.
Every village celebrates its Sennen festival somewhat differently – some with dancing, singing, yodel songs, alphorn playing or flag-twirling, others with special attractions. In Küssnacht, for example, brave young men try to conquer the 40-metre climbing tree. However, the highlight of every festival is the big festive procession. The many wagons in the procession provide an insight into rural life in times gone by, and the farmers show off their cattle.