Only in Zurich by Duncan J.D. Smith

District 1 31 Burning the Böögg District 1 (Hochschulen), the Sechseläuten festival on Sechseläutenplatz Tram 2, 5, 8, 9, 11 Bellevue; Bus 912, 916 Being Switzerland’s financial capital may have given Zurich a staid reputation but when it comes to exciting street festivals it is more than a match for other European cities. Fasnacht in February, for instance, is a boisterous Lenten affair, followed by the triennial Züri Fäscht in July, and the colourful Street Parade in August, one of Europe’s biggest street festivals. Zurich is also home to the Caliente, the largest celebra- tion of Latin American culture in the German-speaking world. But it is the city’s traditional spring festival, the curiously-named Sechseläuten, which is the most dramatic. The origins of Sechseläuten stretch back to medieval times, when Zurich’s trade guilds controlled the city (see no. 10). The length of the working day was strictly regulated, finishing at nightfall in win- ter, and in summer when the church bells tolled six o’clock. The first day of summertime working hours was a cause for celebration in the city’s guildhalls (Zunfthäuser) because it meant that workers gained a few precious hours of daylight leisure time each evening. This ex- plains why the celebrations were called Sechseläuten, or Six O’Clock Bells. Sechseläuten has been celebrated in its current form each April since the early twentieth century. The festivities commence with the Procession of the Guilds (Zug der Zünfte), which comprises several thousand men in historical costume, together with hundreds of horses, carriages, and musicians (despite Swiss women having gained the vote in 1971 they are still not permitted to join the guilds, and so cannot take part in the procession; their own Fraumünsterzunft is not recognised by the traditional guilds). The procession winds its way through the streets of the Altstadt and arrives at 6pm in the suitably-named Sechse­ läutenplatz (Hochschulen) on the shore of Lake Zurich (Zürichsee). Guildsmen on horseback then gallop around a huge pre-prepared bon- fire, on the top of which is a straw effigy in the form of a giant snow- man. Known as the Böögg the effigy representsWinter, and its burning symbolises the welcome return of Spring. With the same etymology as the English word Bogeyman, a Böögg was originally a masked figure doing mischief and frightening children during the Lenten carnival season. 90