We joke about burning a couch when something good happens (like Michigan State winning the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament). It’s not out of the realm of possibility. Apparently Zurich, Switzerland feels the same way. They celebrate Sechseläuten. To celebrate the arrival of spring in Switzerland, they burn the winter in effigy (in the form of the Böögg, a figure of a snowman filled with explosives representing old man winter).
Sechseläuten is kind of like Groundhog’s Day. The time between the lighting of the pyre and the explosion of the Böögg`s head predicts the summer weather. A quick explosion means a warm, sunny summer. A long, drawn-out burning means a cold and rainy one. Even though Switzerland is known as a winter wonderland and ski mecca, locals (including us) hope for its quick end. Earlier this week, Zurich burned the Böögg.
In medieval times, when the first day of summer working hours was celebrated in the guildhalls because during the summer work was required to stop when the church bells tolled at six. The rest of the year, they worked until dark. Who doesn’t celebrate some non-working daylight hours?
Itinerary for Sechseläuten:
- Sunday before Sechseläuten – children’s parade in historic and folkloristic costumes
- Afternoon of Sechseläuten – parade of the 26 guilds (over 7,000) in their historic dress costumes, each with its own band, most with a sizable mounted ‘Reitergruppe’, and horse-drawn floats
- Post-parade – ceremonial galloping of the mounted units of the guilds around the bonfire
- 6:00 p.m. – burn the winter in effigy (in the form of the Böögg, a figure of a snowman filled with explosives representing old man winter)
- Post-Burning – dinner banquets for the guildmembers (and their lucky guests)
- Night – delegations visit other guilds in their guildhalls to exchange greetings, toasts, witticisms and gifts
What’s a holiday without a family spat?
The holiday is often within a week of May Day, a working class holiday. Sechseläuten seems to be a rather posh, upper class affair. The proximity of these has led to various, ahem, issues. In 2006, the Böögg was kidnapped. Now, they keep spares… just in case.
- Les Incompetents Vol. 9 – Whimps In An Alpine Snowstorm (schwingeninswitzerland.wordpress.com)
- Thun, Worth Making A Stop On The Way To Interlaken (schwingeninswitzerland.wordpress.com)