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Zurich chases away winter spirits

Guild members play ring around the Böög every April Keystone Archive

More than 7,000 people dressed in historic costumes, along with horses and marching bands will take part in this year’s “Sechseläuten” (Six o’clock bells) festival in Zurich on April 19.

This content was published on April 2, 2004 - 15:16

The festival reaches its climax at 6pm sharp when a giant snowman is set alight, begining a countdown. If his head explodes quickly, it is a sign of a good summer ahead.

The festival is organised each year by Zurich’s once powerful guilds.

During the procession through town, the blacksmiths carry hammers over their shoulders; the bakers hurl pastry treats into the crowd, and the butchers throw sausages.

Upon reaching the large field named after the festival, the riders gallop round the “Böögg” - a large snowman-like figure placed atop a bonfire.

Most guild members are no longer active in the trades represented by the guilds – which once held great political power - but the tradition persists.

The festival got its name from an ancient law regulating the working hours of the guild members.

Dependent on daylight, the craftsmen worked from dawn to dusk in winter, but when the days lengthened in spring, they had to rely on the six o’clock bells to know when to put down their tools.

Glacier kiss

The ski resort of Flims-Laax-Falera in canton Graubünden bids adieu to winter with its annual “Glacier Kiss” festival on April 18.

People with an inventive flair and touch of madness are invited to race down the slopes in all sorts of weird and wonderful contraptions: bathtubs, pushchairs, submarines.

Originality is awarded as much as speed.

swissinfo

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