The tradition of the festival dates back to the 16th century when it was decided that the second largest bell in the Grossmünster church should sound to mark the arrival of the summer months on the Monday after the equinox. During the winter months, work would end at 5.00pm due to bad light. In the summer months, it was pushed back by an hour so work ended at 6.00pm. The festival is known as Sechseläuten or “Sächsilüüte” as the people of Zurich say.
The “Böögg” has been at the heart of the Sechseläuten festival since the start of the 20th century. It is customary to ask this “Böögg” (effigy) for the summer weather forecast. The “Böögg” is a 3.4m high snowman which stands on a 10m high pyre. During the Sechseläuten festival, the pyre is lit at around 6.00pm. The faster the fire reaches the snowman and makes the head explode (it is packed with fireworks), the better the summer will be. That’s the legend in any case. The “Böögg” made a correct prediction during the legendary summer of 2003: its head exploded after a record 5 minutes 42 seconds.
The “Sächsilüüte” is an annual highlight in Zurich. The celebrations generally begin on the second or third Sunday in April with a colorful children’s procession before members of the guilds begin their procession on the Monday with 3,500 people, 350 riders, 50 horse-drawn wagons and 30 brass bands.
A new tradition has built up around the “Sechseläuten” over the last few years: after the official “Böögg” burning, people of all ages gather for a sausage grill. Sausages are grilled on the burning embers of the pyre and people celebrate late into the night.
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