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SWISS TRADITIONS

Five bizarre Swiss Easter traditions

A procession of weeping women, fountain art and boiled-egg fights. Welcome to Easter in Switzerland.

Five bizarre Swiss Easter traditions
Mourners at the Easter procession in Romont carry a portrait of Jesus Christ. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP.
Mendrisio: Easter procession, April 14th-15th
 
Dating from the 17th century, this is one of the most famous and impressive Easter events in Switzerland. In two processions on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday hundreds of participants re-enact the passion and crucifixion of Christ as they walk through streets decorated with traditional paper lanterns.
 
 
The costumes date from 1898 and are so valuable that if it rains, the whole thing is called off. Thankfully the weather’s looking good this year. 
 

Participants perform the historical Maundy Thursday Procession (or "Ceremony of the Judeans", as it is known locally) in Mendrisio Photo: RETO ALBERTALLI / AFP

Participants perform the historical Maundy Thursday Procession (or “Ceremony of the Judeans”, as it is known locally) in Mendrisio Photo: RETO ALBERTALLI / AFP
 
Nyon: Decorated fountains, 
 
Every year in Nyon on Lake Geneva there’s a competition to decorate the town’s fountains. Members of the local community including schoolchildren, local businesses, clubs and societies rise to the challenge. Members of the public can then tour the fountains for the chance to win a prize. 
 
 
“It’s lovely to see the brightly decorated fountains at this time of year – they are a fun Easter tradition,” says local Catherine Nelson-Pollard, who runs the Living in Nyon (FR) website.
 
“They are on a route that takes you past the old town, the Roman museum, the Maiître Jacques statue, the castle etc, so if you are a visitor to the town you can see the key Nyon landmarks at the same time”.
 
Fountain decoration created by the International Women’s Club of Nyon. Photo: Catherine Nelson-Pollard/Living in Nyon
 
Romont: ‘Les Pleureuses‘ (Weeping Women), April 17th
 
The village of  Romont in the canton of Fribourg stages a haunting procession on Good Friday. Commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus, 20 ‘pleureuses’ (weeping women) wearing black veils walk slowly through the town.
 
On red cushions  they carry symbols of the crucifixion – a crown of thorns, nails, hammer, birch sticks and a whip. 
 

Mourners dressed in black carry a portrait of Jesus Christ during the traditional Good Friday celebration 06 April 2007 in Romont. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

Mourners dressed in black carry a portrait of Jesus Christ during the traditional ‘weeping women’ Good Friday celebration 06 April 2007 in Romont. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP
 
Bern: mass Eiertütschen, April 21st
 
The Eiertütschen (egg smash) is a fun Easter tradition across Switzerland where people attempt to crack each other’s boiled eggs (without breaking their own) before eating them. It’s usually done at home, but the Swiss capital likes to go public by organizing a big egg smashing competition on Easter Sunday. Gather at 10am at the Kornhausplatz and bring your own eggs.
 

An egg hunt is a great way to spend Easter in Switzerland. Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Breaking other people’s eggs is apparently a great way to spend Easter in Switzerland. Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
 
Zurich: Zwänzgerle, April 22nd
 
Zurich has its own variation of the Eiertütschen, the Zwänzgerle. On Easter Monday children and adults gather at Rüdenplatz armed with boiled eggs. Each child holds up an egg and an adult stands opposite and throws a 20 cent coin at the egg.
 
 
If the coin cracks the shell and sticks in the egg, the adult claims the egg. If it doesn’t, the child claims the coin. Sound like the kids are likely to come away a little bit richer… 
 

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SWISS TRADITIONS

EXPLAINED: Which pets can’t be kept alone in Switzerland?

One of Switzerland’s most unique laws is a prohibition on keeping ‘social’ animals alone as pets. But which animals does this rule apply to?

EXPLAINED: Which pets can’t be kept alone in Switzerland?

Most people get pets to counter their own loneliness – but what happens if the pets themselves get lonely? 

Like the clown who entertained the village but was never able to laugh or smile, the lonely pet is a sad tale. 

Fortunately in Switzerland, loneliness among pets has been outlawed – or at least minimised, through a series of 

Certain animals which are considered to be ‘sociable’ cannot be kept alone, nor can they be kept in small cages or enclosures.

Under Article 13 of Switzerland’s Animal Protection Ordinance (TSchV), these animals must be accompanied by another animal of the same species, i.e. providing them with the company of another animal – or that of a human – will not be sufficient.  

Which animals does Switzerland consider to be ‘social’?

Working out which animals are considered social and which are not can be difficult, especially as the section itself does not lay out an exhaustive list. 

In practice however, there are several animals which are considered social and must be kept in pairs as a minimum. 

These are guinea pigs, mice, gerbils, rats, degus (Chilean rodent), chinchillas and ferrets. 

READ MORE: The 12 strange laws in Switzerland you need to know

Rabbits can be kept alone only after they are eight weeks old, as younger rabbits are considered social animals. 

Hamsters on the other hand can be kept alone – in fact, ‘gold hamsters’ are loners and should be kept alone, according to the Swiss Veterinary and Food Safety Ordinance

Dog owners are recommended to allow their animal to have contact with other dogs, however this is not mandatory. Cats can be kept alone but should be allowed outside regularly. 

The list isn’t limited only to mammals, however. 

Goldfish must also be kept in pairs, along with budgies, lovebirds, Japanese quails, macaws, cockatoos, parakeets, parrots, canaries and finches. 

Where one animal dies, you are required to quickly replace it, so that the one which remains is not lonely

If you cannot, the Swiss authorities ask that you give your animal to a home or another pet owner, so it won’t be lonely for too long. 

There’s also Zurich’s ‘guinea pig rental’ service, whereby you can get some temporary company for your pet in times of need. 

While it may sound like a laughing matter to some, more and more is being understood about how animals interact and deal with stress. 

Animal behaviour such as plucking out feathers or scratching fur is now being understood as a consequence of loneliness. 

“The law reflects our perception of how animals are kept in a species-appropriate manner,” Jean-Michel Hatt, Professor of Zoo, Home and Wildlife Medicine at the University of Zurich, told Germany’s Welt newspaper when the law was passed in 2008. 

“Especially with budgerigars and guinea pigs, the legal obligation to keep at least two of them is really the minimum.”

What happens if you break the rules? 

Generally speaking, you will receive a caution and an explanation about the rules at first instance, as presumably many would be unclear about the laws and how they apply. 

However, there are some relatively harsh penalties for those who continue to refuse to observe the rules. 

Persistent violations could see you receive a fine of up to CHF20,000, which is a lot more expensive than an additional budgie. 

At worst, you could even find your own loneliness increasing exponentially, as animal neglect carries with it a maximum jail term of 180 days in Switzerland (at which point you’ll probably begin to understand how the guinea pigs feel). 

What other rules should pet owners consider? 

In addition to reflecting animals’ social nature, it also seeks to protect their privacy. 

An animal enclosure must allow for space where the animal can retreat in private wherever it likes. 

So if you’re thinking of building something and want to stay consistent with Swiss law, try and construct something like a share house for your pets, with both a common area and a place where it can get some well-deserved privacy. 

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