The Five Francs coin is a denomination of the Swiss Franc. Given that Switzerland has four official languages, the Franc has three different names: Franken in German, franc in French and Romansh, and franco in Italian.
The normal circulating 5 FR denomination went through several transformations: with a seated figure of Helvetia on the obverse, then a portrait of Helvetia, then the current design by Paul Burkhard - all of these in silver with the specifications of the Latin Monetary Union, until in 1931 when the coins were made smaller and the content was slightly debased. Starting in 1936, the country also occasionally issued circulating commemorative one-year type 5 Franc coins in silver to mark various important occasions, then - when silver was demonetised in 1971 - the denomination became copper-nickel.
An extensive series of copper-nickel circulating commemoratives were issued between 1974 and 1990 (in parallel with the regular design). For several years after that (1991 to 1998), no commemoratives were issued in this denomination.
In 1999, Swissimint changed the concept and started striking non-circulating commemoratives for collectors only, like the coins issued below - with topics celebrating various aspects of Swiss cultural and national heritage, and not people and events as before. These were denominated as 5 Francs at first, but after only six coins were issued in the first five years, this format was discontinued. Further non-circulating bimetallic coins are now denominated as 10 Francs.
The 2003 Five Francs collector coin celebrates the festival of Chalandamarz.
Chalandamarz is a traditional spring festival in Latin-speaking parts of the Swiss canton of Graubünden. It is celebrated on, and named for, the First of March (Calendae Martis) and marks the end of winter. It is celebrated in much of the Romansh-speaking area, including the Engadin, Val Mustair, Albula (Surmeir), and formerly in the Posterior Rhine valley, as well as in the Italian-speaking parts of Grisons (Poschiavo, Bregaglia and Mesolcina).
On the first of March, and often at least one day before, the boys of each village go around and ring bells and sing. The object is to mark the beginning of a new year in spring, to scare away the evil spirits of winter and wake up the good spirits of spring. Girls traditionally don’t take part in this, but in some villages girls carry baskets around to gather money, and in some villages they carry bells too. Often the boys march around the village fountains, and go into the old houses and sing. After this, there is often whip-cracking. In the evening on the first of March, there is often a party with dancing. The procession of boys at Chalandamarz is often led by the oldest boys who are due to leave school the following year. These are known as Patruns ("patrons, masters").
Use of cowbells to drive out winter is known from other Alpine folklore, such as the Perchten or Fasnacht traditions of Alemannic and Austro-Bavarian speaking areas. The Chalandamarz in Ftan, Lower Engadin, shows influence from Fasnacht traditions in the wearing of masks. In Poschiavo and Mesolcina, formerly also in Scuol, Tschlin and Innerferrera, a straw effigy symbolizing winter is burned.
Bimetallic 5 Franc coins are legal tender but are issued in small quantities for collectors only and do not circulate.