For many of the inhabitants of Innerrhoden Christmas has not arrived until the bluish wreaths of incense tickle the nostrils. On Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve and the Twelfth Night, an old ritual is performed to protect people, animals, home and stable. Grains of incense and a twig that was blessed on Palm Sunday are burnt on charcoal in a «Räuchlipfanne» (incense pan). The pan is taken through the house and stable to ensure that the smoke – and blessing – reaches all parts of the living quarters.
On Christmas Eve in the village of Appenzell, if requested, altar servers walk through people's homes with thurible and incense «boats». In the countryside, it is usually the father who performs the ritual whilst the rest of the family pray in the living room. In earlier times, a brief prayer to protect the family against «Öbel ond Oofall» (evil and accidents) was said.
Omsinge (New Year’s Eve singing)
In recent years, an old custom has been revived by committed «Omsingers» in the various quarters of Appenzell and the surrounding communities.The «Omsinge», in which the groups walk with censers and lanterns in the evening hours whilst they sing songs. It is based on the so-called New Year's singing, which has been practised in many German-speaking countries for centuries. The songs performed by small groups or choirs are meant to bring joy, blessings and good luck for the New Year.
Incense: Christmas Eve, New Year's Eve, the Twelfth Night
Omsinge: during the last week before the New Year