The French city of Strasbourg is guest of honour at this year’s Zurich spring festival, the “Sechseläuten”, which officially kicked off on Friday evening.
Traditionally, it is Swiss cantons, towns or regions that are guest of honour. This is the first time it is a foreign city.
There are historical links between Strasbourg and Zurich. It was Strasbourg’s 1331 law on corporations that inspired Zurich’s in 1336.
The “Sechseläuten” festival has been celebrated every spring for centuries. Its name means “six bells”, because in the past, at the beginning of spring, the cathedral bells would announce the end of the working day at 6pm instead of 5pm as in winter.
On Sunday, some 3,800 children will parade through Zurich in traditional costume. They are expected to be joined by about 130 children from Strasbourg.
On Monday it will be the turn of the Zurich corporations and the guest of honour to parade through the streets, along with invited personalities. The parade usually draws tens of thousands of spectators.
The festival culminates on Monday afternoon with the burning of the "Böögg", a stuffed snowman representing the long winter months recently endured. Legend has it that the quicker the Böögg’s explosives-packed head takes to go off with a bang, the warmer and sunnier the summer will be.
But the Böögg is not always right. Last year it predicted a drab Swiss summer, but it turned out to be one of the hottest and driest on record.