Helen Palmer (nice_cup_of_tea) wrote,
Helen Palmer


Today dear readers, I am going to impart a little bit of Zurich history and culture! The city is gearing up for "Sächsilüüte", the start of spring (or end of Winter!) festival, which takes place on Monday. Sächsilüüte literally means "six chimes", or "the six o'clock bells" and the origins of the festival date back to medieval times. Interstingly, there's a labour regulation connection (see, I knew my masters would come in handy!)

Many years ago during the short winter days, craftsmen in Zurich would usually stop work at nightfall. But from the first calendar day of spring on March 21st, with the days gradually becoming longer, the striking of the church bells at 6 pm was the signal for them to end their workday. Over the years this sensible labour regulation became an occasion to celebrate the arrival of spring. But from 1842, because of the generally gloomy weather in March, the festival was put back by about a month and celebrated on the third Monday in April if it didn’t conflict with the Easter celebration. From this early 19th century custom with its carnival-like processions organised by individual guilds developed today’s Sechseläuten. More...

The festival as it exists today consists of a parade of the 26 Zurich guilds (who reportedly throw flower or bread or fish!) followed by the burning of the Böögg at 6 o'clock as the Grossmünster strikes. The festival is "hosted" by a guest canton (this year Aargau) who set up their stall (so to speak) on the Lindenhof (Roman fortifications).

The Böögg is a "snowman" made out of straw, packed inside with explosives. He represents the death of winter and is set on top of the bonfire. Three of the mounted guilds ride anti-clockwise around the bonfire three times (there's a complicated system of determining the order of the guilds each year). The quicker the poor snowman's head blows up, the hotter and longer the summer. And winter is then officially over :-)

Unfortunately this year, the Böögg has been stolen by May 1st Demonstrators, who claimed that the Böögg was fed up of being blown up by wicked imperialist, capitalist oppressors (or words to that effect). This being Switzerland, however, there is a backup Böögg, who is being prepared as we speak :-) More...

During the evening, members of the guild go visiting other guild houses, again there is a complicated system of defining who visits who and how and when! I am eager to see the Sächsilüüte festival, as I missed it last year and the year before! I'll post photos on Tuesday....
Tags: spring, the arts, zürich
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