Douwe Osinga's Blog: Sechseläuten

Monday, April 18, 2005

Zurich's answer to Burning Man is Sechseläuten. There is a bunch of parades from the guilds (the groups of professionals that have run Zurich since 1336) and they all end up at the square at Bellevue. There is a snow man made of straw on top of a stack of wood. The snow man is called Böögg, which is not only a very weirdly spelled words in any Germanic language, but it also means something that dropped out of your nose.

Anyway, at six sharp, the fire the stack of wood and turn on the timer. The snow man is filled with explosives and the sooner the explosives to go off, the better the summer will be. It took more than 15 minutes, so that doesn't bode well.

It all goes back of course to some heathen feast celebrating the return of the summer. After the reformation in the 16th century, the celebrations got forbidden, but 1892 it got reinstituted. Back then it also indicated the beginning of a daylight saving scheme avant la lettre. In those days, sun set and sun rise where both centered around 6 o'clock. In winter this meant that the sun set would be before 6 o'clock, so people worked only till 5. After sechseläuten, they had to work an hour longer.

Of course today it is different. The sun sets around 20 00 and the snow man explodes in clear day light.