Räbechilbi in Richterswil

A little Halloweeny, a little homecomingish, a little Village Venture-like, and fall festival, Richterswil (a town on Lake Zürich) hosts the definitive Räbechilbi Festival on the second Saturday of November. Never have you imagined some place with tens of thousands of these turnip lanterns until you’ve been to this festival.

As soon as you step off of the train and head into town, you are accosted by the teens and preteens selling the required medallions which help pay for the turnips which are grown specifically for this event. 8 Francs get you admission.


Starting around 15:00, music groups start performing in the various squares, various clubs and groups set up food booths which sell the usual bratwürsts, soups, some raclette, and pastas, and now that the weather is definitely fall, the glühwein (mulled wine) sellers were everywhere.


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People who live along the parade route are required to have their lit turnips on windowsills, stairs, or wherever.

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Pretty soon it starts to get dark, and the magic appears throughout the whole town.

IMG_6302 IMG_6304The parade officially starts at 18:30, but people start grabbing spots along the route at least 30 minutes ahead of time. Some spectators have their own turnips in their hands, and now I suspect that it was a hand-warming device. When the sun went down, the chill came up, and standing still, even in a crowd, was cold.


A sounding shot rang in the air to signal something. I suppose the parade was starting, but it took another good 10 minutes before we saw anything. It is difficult to describe the floats. Large plywood squares on hand-pushed/pulled wagons with some sort of design highlighted by these vegetable lanterns. Interspersed between the floats were children carrying various displays of turnips which were very hard to photograph.

Some of the floats were commentary on current events. Here’s What’sApp.


A crew with each float relights any tea lights that have gone out.


This eagle was pretty impressive.


Maybe our favorite was this Charlie Chaplin (look at the top) from his film Metropolis.


Here was Audrey Hepburn.


I took some videos and thought about making a movie, but when I went on youtube, I found videos from years past (and I saw many pictures right away on Instagram which you can search for under #richterswil or #rabechilbi), and I can point you to this video, and this one. Those years had some quite intricate revolving parts which we did not see. I recommend watching at least a minute or two of the videos to fully appreciate the effect.

However, it could be that they saved the best for last, but we were so cold after an hour of watching that we felt as though we got our 16 Francs worth of entertainment and headed to the train station across the street. We were not the only people with that idea as already many people were ready to head home.


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