Silversterchläuse

Minnesotastan found this 1944 photograph titled "Alter Silvester in Urnäsch" at FOTOGRAFÍA and did some investigating. Silvester means New Years Eve, so the child is not asking for treats on Halloween, as one might assume.  Commenters helped fill in the blanks.
To specify further: technically the boy's not carrying a cow bell but a trychel (Treichel in German, Treichle in Swiss German). Wikipedia puts the difference thus: "As opposed to regular cast metal bells, trychlen are made of hammered sheet metal. This results in a less clean, clanking sound, but at the same time results in a bell that is less heavy and thus easier to carry".

What are little kids doing wearing masks and carrying cow bells on New Years Eve? Find out at TYWKIWDBI. Link

(Image credit: Hans Peter Klauser)

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As a native Minnesotan & of Norwegian decent I would say that this kid is Julebukken. In Minnesota, up to the 1970s farm kids & adults would dress in costume and go farm to farm singing songs for candy and booze (for the adults). This would occur beginning on New Years and extend through January. The bell doesn't fit Julebukken, but reminds me of German Krumpus which should tie in closer to Christmas time. A flaw I noticed is where's the snow and cold? You wouldn't survive very long on a Minnesota New Year in that outfit. Side note: As a kid, adult Julebukkers scared the shit out of me.
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