Saturday, May 18, 2013


Since I'm guessing most people have never heard of Sechseläuten, I'll provide a little background information.
Excerpt from Wikipedia:
The Sechseläuten is a traditional spring holiday in the Swiss city of Zurich celebrated in its current form, on the 3rd Monday of April, since the early 20th century. Additional events of the holiday also include a children's parade on the Sunday preceding the Sechseläuten, a parade of the 26 guilds in their historic dress costumes, each with its own band, most with a mounted "Reitergruppe" and horse drawn floats, and a ceremonial galloping of the mounted units of the guilds around the bonfire. It is here on Sechseläutenplatz where the "Böögg" is burnt. (a snowman effigy on top of a large pyramid sticks - so this is what they're saving firewood for???) The Böögg has a head full of fireworks. The crowd watches the for the head to explode - hoping it will be soon. A delay indicates there will be a lousy summer. (Could this be the Swiss version of Groundhog Day?) We learned recently that the name dates back to the days of old city gates. With Sechseläuten, the gates remained open until 6:00 pm (sechs) instead of closing at 5:00 (funf). 

Here the Böögg is being prepared for its demise. Men handing up wood for the bonfire.
A majority of the parade participants were men, but not all. Many women were along the route with baskets of flowers. They presented them to their men. By the end of the parade, some men were carrying a lot of flowers. This also may be a bit of a popularity contest. I'm sure the florists love this tradition.

flowers at the ready

I was not able to identify all the guilds - maybe you'll do better. Hint, not all 26 are shown here. 

This parade is only in Zurich. Every year, they invite one of the other cantons to be a guest participant. This year it was St. Gallen and everyone received small St. Gallen flags. I have to include their flag throwers. I think they need some help from my expert guard member niece, Jess.

St Gallen flag

We learned an amazing tidbit from another expat with a Swiss husband. Tickets are sold for two rows of seats on either side of the parade route. Do I want a seat? Of course I do. I just had no idea that was a choice. We were able to arrive moments before the start of the parade and our seats were empty. I was very glad for a seat - the parade lasted 3 hours! I'll admit, I got tired of it by the end of the second hour. 

The videos give you a feel for what the parade was like. The oddest thing was that it went both directions on the street - fine in the beginning before anyone was on the way home. Eventually we had groups going both ways in front of us and sometimes bands playing at the same time. "I can play louder than you can!" Unfortunately, the new groups were on the far side of the street. As we were more interested in things we hadn't seen before, the ones coming through for the second time blocked the view. Why do it this way? I have no idea.


Monty Python?


bakers with giant "zopf"


very popular fellows

 This group was giving out dates (the fruit!).

wine press

Yes, they were actually giving out small plastic cups of wine. I didn't get any because I was too busy with the camera but a few in our group did. Other guilds were throwing candy, oranges or rolls!

      Not to miss an opportunity to make money, one of the local chocolatiers was even selling chocolate  Bööggs. They certainly weren't worth the asking price (which I've forgotten), but they allowed me to take a picture. 

      Finally the parade ended, and a large crowd headed over to Sechseläutenplatz and the Böögg. Everyone was curious about how long it would burn. We weren't able to get a good view since we were certainly not the first there. I'm guessing plenty of people didn't bother with the parade and just waited for the bonfire. Unfortunately, it was the slowest since 1988 (40 minutes which did get a bit boring) and doesn't bode well for our weather - I'm choosing to not be superstitious and hope for the best.  (Photos thanks to Teri Mason and the local paper on the following day.  )

      Luckily, it was a beautiful sunny day. It was fun to be out and participate in another Swiss festival.