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If the Snowman Explodes, It Must Be Spring

April 22, 2016

Who needs a groundhog or looking outside to see the sunshine and flowers? In Switzerland, they know it’s Spring when the snowman explodes.
Sechselauten in Switzerland marks the arrival of Spring.
Since the 16th century, the city of Zurich, Switzerland, was welcomed Spring with Sechselauten, a festival whose name means “the six o’clock ringing of the bells.” The seasonal shift was noticed by local craftsmen, who in the winter would work until 5 p.m., when the sun set. As the warmer months approached, the workday was extended to 6 p.m. To herald the arrival of Spring, the largest church bells in the town square would ring at 6 p.m., and then a multi-day celebration would commence.
That tradition continued until 1902, when it got a lot more exciting with the introduction of the Boogg. It’s an 11-foot-tall snowman, and locals stuff it with straw, cotton…and 140 sticks of dynamite. And then they blow it up.
This year’s Sechselauten took place on April 18. While it’s still cold enough in Zurich for there to be enough snow on the ground to craft an 11-foot-tall snowman, the folk wisdom is that the sooner the Boogg’s head blows up, the closer it is to Spring. (It’s sort of like how whether or not the Groundhog sees his shadow determines more Winter or an early Spring.)
One of the main parts of the destruction of the Boogg is placing on bets on how long it will take for the snowman to completely burn to the ground. Last year set an all-time record for slowest burn: 20 minutes and 39 seconds (although the fire did also have to burn down the snowman’s 32-foot-tall wooden funeral pyre.) That meant more Winter for Zurich. The earliest of early Springs was predicted by the Boogg in 2003: That year it took just under six minutes to waste the physical manifestation of Old Man Winter.
And then, once the fire burns down, locals grill meats and sausages on the burning embers.

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