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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: What is new about Switzerland’s Fête des Vendages in Neuchâtel

The traditional Harvest Festival in Neuchâtel is reaching its 95th edition this year, starting Friday, September 23rd and ending on the night of Sunday 25th. Here's what you need to know about it.

EXPLAINED: What is new about Switzerland's Fête des Vendages in Neuchâtel

The Harvest festival in Neuchâtel celebrates vines and wine, bringing together more than 250 stands (and more than 300,000 people) between Friday and Sunday evenings in the city. It’s one of the most traditional festivals in Switzerland, taking place for almost 100 years during the last weekend of September.

The festivity days have plenty of events, but the most famous ones are the procession and the flower Corso, which take place on Sunday afternoons and can attract more than 100,000 spectators. On Friday, the costumed groups start the festival with the big procession of the Guggenmusik.

Besides the wine and local food stands, other attractions are the amusement park grounds and the Miss & Mister Neuchâtel Festival contest.

The harvest festivals date hundreds of years, but the current form has been taking place in Neuchâtel since 1925.

What’s new this year?

This year, the festival comes with a modern novelty: participants may buy a CHF 10 bracelet that can be charged with cash to keep transactions easy and contactless.

Additionally, the festival has an environmental facet, adopting reusable glasses. People will pay a CHF 2 deposit per glass which will be paid back to them on the bracelet once the glasses are returned.

You can return the glasses to all stands that sell drinks (except for the long drinks and absinthe glasses, which should be returned to stands that use them) – only the person who bought the cup can return them, so your friend cannot collect your deposit for you, for example. “This method limits the theft of glasses and facilitates logistical and safety management”, the organisers said.

How do I get there?

It’s easy to reach the venue using public transport – and those who buy the official bracelet get free access to public transport in zones 10, 11, 14, 15 and 30. The best way to reach it is by taking an SBB train to the Canton of Neuchâtel.

Public transport is also the best way to reach the area, as the Neuchâtel City Center is closed to road traffic during the Harvest Festival. Still, if you travel by car, the usual road signs will direct you to the car parks available.

How do I buy the tickets?

You can buy tickets online or in the ticket office at the event.

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