Switzerland Regional festival in Switzerland, observed in Zurich

Zürich Grossmünster panorama by Marcin Białek via Wikimedia Commons.

When is Sechseläuten?

Dates of Sechselauten?
Year Day Date
2017 Monday April 24th
2016 Monday April 18th
2015 Monday April 13th
2014 Monday April 28th
2013 Monday April 15th
Observed in
Switzerland Zurich

Celebrated on the afternoon of the Third Monday in April. If the third Monday of April is Easter Monday, the holiday may be moved to the preceding or following Monday.

This regional festival originated in medieval times when guildhalls across Zurich celebrated the first day of summer working hours.

Sechseläuten is a German word that literally translates into "The six o'clock ringing of the bells". In medieval Zurich, the length of the working day was determined by the season. During the winter, the workday lasted as long as there was daylight, but during the summer (starting on Monday following vernal equinox), the law was that work must cease when the church bells rang for six o'clock.

Blowing up the Böögg

The event is marked by a parade and climaxes in the burning of 'Winter' which takes the form of a snowman called the Böögg. The Böögg's head is packed with fireworks and the exploding head makes a makes a spectacular finale to the day. The custom of burning a 'Böögg' predates the Sechseläuten. A Böögg (similar to bogey man) was originally a masked mischief maker, who frightened children during the carnival season. Individual guilds celebrated Sechseläuten by burning their own Böögg, these then unified to become the parade and burning of today.

A local belief is that the time between the lighting of the fire and the explosion of the head indicates the weather that be expected in the coming summer: a fast explosion means a warm summer, a longer period of burning means a cold and rainy one.

In 1952, the celebration was moved from its traditional vernal equinox related date to the third Monday of April. Because of the later date, and the adoption of daylight savings time in 1981, the traditional lighting of the Böögg's pyre at 6pm has been now moved to later in the evening.

In 2006, just a few days before the Sechseläuten, the Böögg was abducted by leftist "revolutionaries", who saw Sechseläuten as an 'upper class/capitalist' celebration. Since then, no chances are taken and duplicate Bööggs are held in reserve with the main one stored at a bank.

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