The Sechseläuten (Zürich German: Sächsilüüte) is a traditional spring holiday in the Swiss city of Zurich celebrated in its current form, usually on the 3rd Monday of April, since the early 20th century. However, 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 5.00 pm due to bad light. In the summer months, it was pushed back by an hour so work ended at 6.00 pm.
Following the parade of the Zünfte (guilds), the climax of the holiday is the burning of Winter in effigy, in the form of the Böögg, a figure of a snowman prepared with explosives. The custom of burning a rag doll called Böögg predates the Sechseläuten. A Böögg (cognate to bogey) was originally a masked character doing mischief and frightening children during the carnival season.
Popular tradition has it that the time between the lighting of the pyre and the explosion of the Böögg’s head is indicative of the coming summer: A quick explosion promises a warm, sunny summer, a drawn-out burning a cold and rainy one.
The shortest time on record is 5:07 minutes in 1974 and the longest is 43:34 minutes in 2016. The 2007 explosion of the Böögg’s head (on 16 April 2007) took place 12:09 minutes after the pyre was lit, promising a medium warm summer. On 14 April 2008, heavy rains soaked the Böögg and the wood pyre materials so much that “firemen” in the style of Fahrenheit 451 had to spray the pyre with kerosene or fuel oil after initial ignition in addition to 15 liters of fire accelerant which was initially thrown on the pyre. It took 26:01 minutes for the Böögg’s head to explode which indicates a poor weather summer.
In 2018, it took the Böögg’s head 20:31 minutes to explode.
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Switzerland is a mountainous Central European country, home to numerous lakes, villages and the high peaks of the Alps. Its cities contain landmarks like capital Bern’s Zytglogge clock tower and Lucerne’s wooden chapel bridge.
The country is also known for its ski resorts and hiking trails. Banking and finance are key industries, and Swiss watches and chocolate are world renowned.
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