Exploding Snowmen — How the Swiss Celebrate Spring

Julia Schneemann | LaughsLaughs
The exploding snowman last year in Zürich, Switzerland. | Picture: Tourism Switzerland Website

Today is a special day in Zurich, Switzerland — Sechseläuten, or “six bells festival” in English. It is a centuries-old tradition, dating back to medieval times, which rings in spring and is used as a show-stopping way to predict the weather, similar to the Pennsylvania groundhog.

The snowman effigy on top of the pyre last in Zürich, Switzerland. | Picture: Tourism Switzerland Website

For this festival, the effigy of a snowman is set on fire. Depending on how fast the fire from the pyre reaches the snowman effigy and how quickly the snowman’s firecracker-filled-head explodes, the better summer will be. The snowman is referred to as ‘the Böögg’, which is likely a derivation of the word ‘bogeyman’.

A range of parades and festivities precede the burning of the snowman effigy. | Picture: Tourism Switzerland Website

The pyre with the Böögg on top was set alight today at 6:00 p.m. on the dot. Parades in national costume preceded the event. Today it took 57 minutes for the snowman’s head to explode, which is a rather long time, indicating a poor summer. In fact, it was the longest it has ever taken, with the fastest time being 5 minutes and 42 seconds in 2003, which coincidentally saw a massive heatwave in summer.

Kids in traditional regional costumes during a parade. | Picture: Tourism Switzerland Website

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