Burning the Snowman

Burning Snowman, Zurich

In Zurich every year, at the end of winter, they burn a snowman to signify the end of winter. This snowman is know as the Bgg … a word which can only have been invented by a Swiss-German. It can be spelt boogg or even boeoegg by those outside of the country and is pronounced something like Berc or Berg … but only after a few beers. He has even made it as far as England as part of an end of winter festival.

Before the burning of the snowman there are parades and everyone rushes to get the best place to watch the horse drawn carts. All the women bring flowers to give to the men who march. There is music and laughter and a great sense of occasion and tradition. The Swiss love tradition. Everyone will be in the costume of their town or village. The old folks wil sit on benches and the children will run and laugh and admire the great shire horses as they pass.

At 6 o’clock the bells begin to toll all across the city. This, of old, was an indication that the work day was over. Now it means that the snowman is center stage. He sits atop of a huge bonfire beside the lake, surrounded by as many people as can crowd into the square. The bonfire is laced with fireworks and the head of the snowman is filled with them. As 6 o’clock rings out, the fire is lit and people raise their watches for mark the time. For, it is said, you can tell how quick the summer will come and how good a summer it will be by how long it takes the snowman to burn. Round the bonfire race men on horseback, endangering their lives as the snowman will fall across their path and the fire works will fly past them.

This year, 2006, could have been different. A few days before the festival, a group kidnapped the snowman and left a message that he would be paraded on the 1st of May. And that he was tired to placing his head on the line for capitalists. Thankfully, there is always a spare snowman to stand in for his missing brother. The Bgg will burn as ever at Bellevue as the bells toll 6 o’clock.

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