Everything you need to know about Sechseläuten

Everything you need to know about Sechseläuten

The Sechseläuten is a traditional Zurich event that announces the beginning of spring.

This stunning festival is usually celebrated on the first Monday after the spring equinox. Yet, this year it will be held on Monday 25th of April.

So, let’s discover more!

 

What is Sechseläuten, and what are its origins?

For over 500 years, Zurich housed the iconic Sechseläuten festival to celebrate the end of winter and the beginning of spring.

Such a tradition, in fact, dates back to the 16th century, when the City Council – whose members were drawn from Zurich’s various guilds – decreed that during summer days citizens should finish working an hour later than in winter.

So, on the first Monday after the equinox, the second largest bell in the Grossmünster rang out at 6 pm to announce the end of the new working day. That’s how this spring traditional festival caught on, whose name literally means “the six o’clock ringing bells”.

Nowadays, if you happen to be around during the event, you can marvel at parades, period costumes, and marching bands that fill the city’s center streets!

 

Sechseläuten Festival: how does it work?

The children and guilds’ parade

Traditionally, the festival opens with the children's parade on Sunday afternoon, where about 3000 children – dressed in historical costumes – parade around the city, along with 800 musicians of the region’s youth bands.

While, on Monday afternoon, it’s the turn of the 25 guilds’ parade.

The latter consists of a colorful procession of 3500 men in traditional costumes, a further 350 people on horseback, 50 floats, and about 30 marching bands – all headed to the Sechseläutenplatz, where the Böögg is waiting.

The Böögg that predicts weather

The main protagonist of Zurich's Sechseläuten is the Böögg.

It is an over 3 meters tall effigy of a snowman that symbolizes winter, which is set alight to put a stop to the winter season – at 6 pm on Monday.

Such a custom has been included in the festival not until the end of the 19th century. Before that, several Bööggs existed and kids in Zurich’s Kratz quarter were used to burning them on the vernal equinox day.

Today, it’s tradition to ask the Böögg to forecast summer’s weather: indeed, the faster the head of the snowman explodes, the finer summer will be!

The final super barbecue

Once the bonfire settles down, another tradition takes over: the largest Swiss barbecue party, which takes place around the remains of the bonfire and lasts until the early hours.

So, if you join the festival, you’ll also have the chance to taste some delicious sausages!  

Want to discover more about living and working in Zurich? Keep following our blog to find the best tips you need to know before and after moving to this stunning city!
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