Sechseläuten Part Three – The Burning of the Böögg

The parade participants end up in Sechseläutenplatz, the huge plaza in front of the opera house. Waiting to greet them is a huge stuffed snowman called the Böögg sitting atop a pyre. He is filled with explosives, and every year the question is, “How long will it take until the Böögg’s head explodes?” The quicker it takes, the better the summer weather will supposedly be.

Before the parade ended, we thought we ought to get over to the plaza to find a viewing place. Obviously, we were not the first people to have this idea, and we scrunched and smoozed our way through the masses to find a spot. It’s a good thing the pyre is very tall so more people can see the fireworks.

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Workers finishing up the construction

At precisely 6:00 p.m. (18.00) the pyre is lit. Why 6:00? Back in the day, people had to work from sun-up to sun-down, but the summer daylight hours get pretty long (sitting here at a parallel close to Seattle’s). Summer hours meant that workers could finish the day when the bells of the Grossmunster pealed 6. Hence the name Sechseläuten which means the ringing of the bells at 6:00. What a good reason to celebrate!

Heinz Wahrenburger has been making the Böögg for 50 years, and this year is his final snowman. Next year he turns over the reins to his apprentice, Lukas Meier. I think I remember reading that is why this Böögg was wearing a crown instead of his usual brown hat.

Here is a page with facts and figures about the Böögg and how long it has taken in the past for the head to explode. Note that last year it was a very fast 7 min. 23 seconds, and though that should have been a warm summer, the locals said it was awful and rainy.

What about this year? 20 minutes and 39 seconds. While we waited for the flames to reach the top, H could see that there were horses racing in circles at the foot of the pyre. He lifted me up for a moment so that I could see, too. Apparently there were some accidents with people falling off horses, and I just read in the paper that one horse did die.

Here is a photo from the website NewInZurich:10931177_784930938250768_8153653074287650053_o

We did not stick around for the traditional “Grab some coals from the fire and roast your own sausages” dinner. I had to get home to eat a bite and head out to orchestra rehearsal. It’s a good thing that there are two ways to go by tram to where I was headed since one of them was not running through the masses of people.

It’s a good thing we did not stick around as eight people were hurt by a firecracker that exploded after the fact. Five ended up in the hospital.

Here are two youtube videos of note. This one is tv coverage of yesterday’s event. Skip ahead to about 7:30 when things start to heat up. This short one is a nice little compilation of the festivities from 2010. Only the first little bit is all in German.

Happy Spring to all!

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