Turnip, swede, rutabaga, neep – call it what you want, the large purple root vegetable is the star of the Räbeliechtliumzug, the “illuminated turnip procession”, which winds through Richterswil on the shores of Lake Zurich on the second Saturday in November.
The candle-lit festival is said to have begun more than 100 years ago when farmers gave an offering of thanks for the last crops before winter. At the same time, women who lived up in the mountains would use the turnips – which give out some heat as well as light – to make their way along the barely lit village streets to the thanksgiving service.
The first processions were devoted to these “mountain church ladies”. Nowadays some 50,000 candles are inserted into around 25 tonnes of turnips, which are used to build everything from elephants to turnip temples. People who live along the procession route are obliged to cover their houses in turnip Jack’o’lanterns and turn off all their lights. Street lights are also switched off.
In 2000, the festival – which starts and ends with firecrackers – even made it into the Guinness Book of Records for being the largest illuminated turnip procession in the world.