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Why Zurich is waiting for a head to explode

Lyssandra Sears · 16 Apr 2012, 10:00

Published: 16 Apr 2012 09:58 GMT+02:00
Updated: 16 Apr 2012 10:00 GMT+02:00

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The Sechseläuten festival takes place on Monday, with ancient guilds parading through Zurich, women showering men with flowers, and a ritualistic burning to top it off.

A carnival-like train will weave its way through the city on Monday April 16th, with men and women dressed in traditional costume, and all of the old guilds of Zurich represented. In a reversal of traditional roles, women present and adorn passing men with flowers.

A holiday for many locals, thousands will watch and follow the parade to Bellevue, at the north end of the Zurich lake, in order to catch a glimpse of the main highlight: the burning of the Böögg!

Every year, the Böögg, a Swiss-German term meaning “clad masked man”, is burned on a pyre to mark the official end to the winter and to welcome in the start of spring. It is thought that the tradition has been practised for centuries.

The Böögg measures almost four and a half metres tall and is shaped in the form of a snowman. The man is placed on a ten-metre tall pyre, his head packed with explosives.

At the appointed time, and with great ceremony, the pyre is lit. The crowd watch with excitement to see how long it will take for the Böögg’s head to explode.

Legend has it that the shorter the time it takes for the head to combust, the better and longer the forthcoming summer will be.

The burning of the Böögg will take place on Monday at 6pm at Bellevue. For those who cannot make it to the events in Zurich, the event will be broadcast live on Swiss television channel SF1. 

Lyssandra Sears (news@thelocal.ch)

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