Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Sechseläuten and the burning of the Böögg

Yesterday I witnessed the most un-American thing I have yet to see in Switzerland.  Well, America would have a parade, and they might blow up a snowman, but there is no way in hell that they would allow whomever wants to, to have a picnic around a burning bonfire (that the city created) all while random people with shovels dig out hot ash from the bonfire and then carry it through said crowd of thousands of people to their picnic area so that they can roast their weenies (without any law enforcement or supervision - of course).  Wow - it really must be nice to live in a country where you can't sue anybody.  But digress...

Sechseläuten is a tradition in Zurich, that possibly dates back to the thirteenth century, where the guild workers agreed that with the beginning of Spring they would stop their day's work when the "bells strike 6 o'clock".  (During the winter, they would work from dusk till dawn).  If you would like to read more about the Sechseläuten I think this site does a good job of explaining it (to the best of my knowledge).  I'm not 100% sure how many guilds there are, but I think it is around 26 (if you are Swiss please help me out here). 

All the guilds (well except for the women's guild) participate in a parade in their traditional garb and with marching bands, etc.  I especially liked this guild (I'm guessing they were the Butchers) because they got to carry around really big axes through the whole parade because you know - that is really safe (I know I sound like an American)!:)  The women are not allowed to participate in the parade because this is Switzerland and they are more about tradition than equal rights (my opinion).  Another Swiss Expat blogger wrote an article about this for the Swiss News if you would like to read it.

The BIG Axe carrying guild!

Following the guild parade, a snowman called the Böögg is burned and the quicker his head explodes, the better the summer weather is said to be.  Kind of like Groundhog's Day on steroids, but much cooler because there is fire involved :)!  This year the Böögg's head exploded in around 13 minutes. Last year we was told it took 15 minutes and the summer was amazing, so this year should be unbelievable!

The snowman before being lit on fire...

The huge crowd watching the burning of the Boogg...

He's just starting to catch on fire - not much longer...

BAM!  His head exploded - now let's BBQ!

After the explosion and some more parade type stuff, they allow the crowds to get near the "bonfire" and picnic.  I went with my friend Kelly and we thought we came prepared with Bratwurst and sticks to grill them on, but since we had never done this before we were (very) ill prepared.  We were amongst professional Böögg brat grillers and our sticks were a bit of a joke when you saw what everyone else brought (in hindsight I'm not sure what we were thinking, but I had no idea how big or hot the fire would be)!  So here is a note to self if you every attend this affair:  Bring a blanket to sit on, lots of beer and wine to drink, brats, other picnic type stuff, and most importantly a GRILL.  You can also bring a shovel to get the ash from the bonfire to the grill or you can just pay someone who already has a big ass shovel to do it for you (I recommend the later). 

So this guy with the shovel of hot ashes is running TOWARDS the crowd - well in his defense it was really hot!:)

OR you can just cut down a tree like the dude in the picture below and grill your brat right on the burning bonfire from about 20 feet away!:) 

Do you see this mental giant?  If you look closely you can see his brat grilling on the end of the stick - I guess he gets props for his props?!

Also, wear old clothes because there were several times where burning ash fell on us when the wind blew - yes it was hot and yes there is a whole in my shirt.  Kelly's hair had ash in it and her husband said that her hair was basically "burnt" in places - awesome - not!)

We ended up taking our weenies and going home to "grill" them in our ovens:( - but nonetheless it was a great experience and I will definitely come more prepared if I do it again!

I did try to grill my brat over a random pile of ash, but it didn't even get luke warm:(

This will be our last SwissTradition as we are now leaving in 11 days.  However, we were here for an entire calender year, so we tried to see as many as possible including the Knabenschiessen, an Alpabfahrt, and Zurich Carnival.   I love Switzerland and all their traditions! What an amazing year!


Anonymous said...

Yeah, I really don't know what we were thinking showing up with our wimpy s'mores sticks. You get some extra points for trying to grill over that tiny pile of coals with the Swiss family. I'll e-mail you a photo of that.

Mandy said...

Thanks for the pic Kelly - I just added it! How was Venice? Did you see Angelina and Brad - she is there for a movie:)

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