Last updated
2012 Sechselauten - Boog 2012-04-16 18-07-52 01.JPG
Böögg in 2012
Observed by Canton of Zurich, Switzerland
Datethird Monday in April (with exceptions)
2018 date16 April
2019 date8 April
2020 date20 April

The Sechseläuten (Zürich German: Sächsilüüte) is a traditional spring holiday in the Swiss city of Zürich celebrated in its current form, usually on the 3rd Monday of April, since the early 20th century.

Zürich German dialect

Zürich German is the High Alemannic dialect spoken in the Canton of Zürich, Switzerland. Its area covers most of the canton, with the exception of the parts north of the Thur and the Rhine, which belong to the areal of the northeastern Swiss dialects.

Holiday festive day set aside by custom or by law

A holiday is a day set aside by custom or by law on which normal activities, especially business or work including school, are suspended or reduced. Generally, holidays are intended to allow individuals to celebrate or commemorate an event or tradition of cultural or religious significance. Holidays may be designated by governments, religious institutions, or other groups or organizations. The degree to which normal activities are reduced by a holiday may depend on local laws, customs, the type of job held or personal choices.

Switzerland federal republic in Central Europe

Switzerland, officially the Swiss Confederation, is a country situated in western, central, and southern Europe. It consists of 26 cantons, and the city of Bern is the seat of the federal authorities. The sovereign state is a federal republic bordered by Italy to the south, France to the west, Germany to the north, and Austria and Liechtenstein to the east. Switzerland is a landlocked country geographically divided between the Alps, the Swiss Plateau and the Jura, spanning a total area of 41,285 km2 (15,940 sq mi). While the Alps occupy the greater part of the territory, the Swiss population of approximately 8.5 million people is concentrated mostly on the plateau, where the largest cities are to be found: among them are the two global cities and economic centres Zürich and Geneva.


Burning of the Böögg

Following the parade of the Zünfte (guilds), the climax of the holiday is the burning of Winter in effigy, in the form of the Böögg, a figure of a snowman prepared with explosives. The custom of burning a rag doll called Böögg predates the Sechseläuten. A Böögg (cognate to bogey ) was originally a masked character doing mischief and frightening children during the carnival season.

There are fourteen historical Zünfte of Zürich, under the system established in 1336 with the "guild revolution" of Rudolf Brun. They are the 13 guilds that predated 1336, plus the Gesellschaft zur Constaffel, originally consisting of the city's nobles.

Guild association of artisans or merchants

A guild is an association of artisans or merchants who oversee the practice of their craft/trade in a particular area. The earliest types of guild formed as a confraternities of tradesmen. They were organized in a manner something between a professional association, a trade union, a cartel, and a secret society. They often depended on grants of letters patent from a monarch or other authority to enforce the flow of trade to their self-employed members, and to retain ownership of tools and the supply of materials. A lasting legacy of traditional guilds are the guildhalls constructed and used as guild meeting-places. Guild members found guilty of cheating on the public would be fined or banned from the guild.

Effigy representation of a specific person in the form of sculpture

An effigy is a representation of a specific person in the form of sculpture or some other three-dimensional medium. The use of the term is normally restricted to certain contexts in a somewhat arbitrary way: recumbent effigies on tombs are so called, but standing statues of individuals, or busts, are usually not. Likenesses of religious figures in sculpture are not normally called effigies. Effigies are common elements of funerary art, especially as a recumbent effigy in stone or metal placed on a tomb, or a less permanent "funeral effigy", placed on the coffin in a grand funeral, wearing real clothing.


Burning the Boogg around 1900 Zentralbibliothek Zurich - Zurich Sechselautenfeuer Verbrennung des Bogg - 000010359.jpg
Burning the Böögg around 1900

The roots of the festival go back to medieval times when the first day of summer working hours was celebrated in the guildhalls across the city. City ordinances strictly regulated the length of the working day in that era. During the winter semester the workday in all workshops lasted as long as there was daylight, but during the summer semester (i.e. starting on Monday following vernal equinox) the law proclaimed that work must cease when the church bells tolled at six o'clock. Sechseläuten is a Swiss German word that literally translates into "The six o'clock ringing of the bells". Changing to summer working hours traditionally was a joyous occasion because it marked the beginning of the season where people had some non-working daylight hours.

Burnings of Böögg figures (the Swiss German term for "bogey", in origin scary-looking ragdolls) in spring are attested in various places of the city from the late 18th and early 19th century, without direct connection to the Sechseläuten. The combination of the Sechseläuten parade and the burning of an official Böögg was introduced in 1902.

Bogeyman figure used to frighten children

The Bogeyman is a mythical creature used by adults to frighten children into good behaviour. The Bogeyman has no specific appearance, and conceptions vary drastically by household and culture, but is commonly depicted as a masculine or androgynous monster that punishes children for misbehavior. Bogeymen may target a specific act or general misbehaviour, depending on what purpose needs serving, often based on a warning from the child's authority figure.

From 1902 until 1951[ citation needed ], the holiday used to be held on the first Monday following vernal equinox. On that day, the Fraumünster bell, for the first time in the year, tolled to mark the end of working hours at 6 p.m. (historically the time of sunset on vernal equinox). The holiday was moved to the third Monday of April in 1952. Because of the later date, and because of summer time introduced in 1981, the lighting of the Böögg's pyre at 6 p.m. has now moved to several hours before nightfall. Additionally, because of its present date, the holiday is often within a week of 1 May, leading to a stark contrast between the upper class dominated Sechseläuten and the working class holiday of May Day. This proximity of the major festivals of two political poles of the society of Zürich has led to various interferences in the past, for example the abduction of the Böögg in 2006 by leftist "revolutionaries" a few days before the Sechseläuten. Since then, several Bööggs are held in reserve with the main one stored at a bank nearby the Sechseläutenplatz (the open area in front of the Opernhaus near Bellevue where most Zürich open air activities take place). Since 2010 the guilds of Zürich allow the women of Gesellschaft zu Fraumünster to practice Sechseläuten, usually just being guests of the guilds respectively the Constaffel society, but still not being as an official guild in Zürich.

Fraumünster church

The Fraumünster Church in Zürich is built on the remains of a former abbey for aristocratic women which was founded in 853 by Louis the German for his daughter Hildegard. He endowed the Benedictine convent with the lands of Zürich, Uri, and the Albis forest, and granted the convent immunity, placing it under his direct authority. Today, it belongs to the Evangelical Reformed Church of the Canton of Zürich and is one of the four main churches of Zürich, the others being the Grossmünster, Prediger and St. Peter's churches.

May Day an ancient Northern Hemisphere spring festival and usually a public holiday

May Day is a public holiday usually celebrated on 1 May. It is an ancient Northern Hemisphere spring festival and a traditional spring holiday in many cultures. Dances, singing, and cake are usually part of the festivities. In the late 19th century, May Day was chosen as the date for International Workers' Day by the Socialists and Communists of the Second International to commemorate the Haymarket affair in Chicago. International Workers' Day can also be referred to as "May Day", but it is a different celebration from the traditional May Day.

Weather oracle

Popular tradition has it that the time between the lighting of the pyre and the explosion of the Böögg’s head is indicative of the coming summer: a quick explosion promises a warm, sunny summer, a drawn-out burning a cold and rainy one. The shortest time on record is 5:07 minutes in 1974 and the longest is 43:34 minutes in 2016. [1] The 2007 explosion of the Böögg’s head (on 16 April 2007) took place 12:09 minutes after the pyre was lit, promising a medium warm summer. On 14 April 2008, heavy rains soaked the Böögg and the wood pyre materials so much that "firemen" in the style of Fahrenheit 451 had to spray the pyre with kerosene or fuel oil after initial ignition in addition to 15 liters of fire accelerant which was initially thrown on the pyre. It took 26:01 minutes for the Bööggs head to explode which indicates a poor weather summer.

<i>Fahrenheit 451</i> dystopian novel by Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451 is a dystopian novel by American writer Ray Bradbury, first published in 1953. It is regarded as one of his best works. The novel presents a future American society where books are outlawed and "firemen" burn any that are found. The book's tagline explains the title: "Fahrenheit 451 – the temperature at which book paper catches fire, and burns..." The lead character, Guy Montag, is a fireman who becomes disillusioned with his role of censoring literature and destroying knowledge, eventually quitting his job and committing himself to the preservation of literary and cultural writings.

Kerosene, also known as paraffin, lamp oil, and coal oil, is a combustible hydrocarbon liquid which is derived from petroleum. It is widely used as a fuel in industry as well as households. Its name derives from Greek: κηρός (keros) meaning wax, and was registered as a trademark by Canadian geologist and inventor Abraham Gesner in 1854 before evolving into a genericized trademark. It is sometimes spelled kerosine in scientific and industrial usage. The term kerosene is common in much of Argentina, Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, and the United States, while the term paraffin is used in Chile, eastern Africa, South Africa, Norway, and in the United Kingdom. The term lamp oil, or the equivalent in the local languages, is common in the majority of Asia. Liquid paraffin is a more viscous and highly refined product which is used as a laxative. Paraffin wax is a waxy solid extracted from petroleum.

Fuel oil A heavy fraction obtained from petroleum distillation burned to generate power

Fuel oil is a fraction obtained from petroleum distillation, either as a distillate or a residue. In general terms, fuel oil is any liquid fuel that is burned in a furnace or boiler for the generation of heat or used in an engine for the generation of power, except oils having a flash point of approximately 42 °C (108 °F) and oils burned in cotton or wool-wick burners. Fuel oil is made of long hydrocarbon chains, particularly alkanes, cycloalkanes and aromatics. The term fuel oil is also used in a stricter sense to refer only to the heaviest commercial fuel that can be obtained from crude oil, i.e., heavier than gasoline and naphtha.

Sechseläuten in recent years

The Sechseläuten of 2008 took place on 14 April. Officially, the head exploded only after 26 minutes and one second, promising a rather poor summer. The fact that the head, instead of traditionally exploding, burnt down very quietly caused a lot of confusion. After approximately 20 minutes the head had burnt away completely, but leaving a large piece of the neck hanging from the stake. It was the explosion of that piece that ended this year's event.

In 2012 it took 12 minutes and 07 seconds, and in this year there was some confusion if both firecrackers in the neck of the Böögg had exploded. It was determined that 12 min 07 secs was the mark.

In 2014 the head exploded quite quickly (7 Minutes and 23 seconds) but it ended up being a poor summer.

In 2015 the head exploded quite quickly and it ended up being a very good summer.

In 2016 the head exploded after 43 minutes and 34 seconds, setting a new record. [2]

In 2017 the head exploded after 9 minutes and 56 seconds. A quick time and there was a good summer

In 2018 the head exploded after 20 minutes and 31 seconds.

In 2019 the head exploded after 17 minutes and 44 seconds.

Additional events

Additional events of the holiday nowadays also include:

  1. A 'Kinderumzug' (children's parade) in historic and folkloristic costumes on the Sunday preceding the Sechseläuten.
  2. A very colorful afternoon parade of the 26 guilds in their historic dress costumes, each with its own band, most with a sizable mounted 'Reitergruppe', and horse drawn floats, to the 'Sechseläutenplatz' at the lakeshore where the Böögg is burnt.
  3. A ceremonial galloping of the mounted units of the guilds around the bonfire.
  4. Lunch and dinner banquets for the guildmembers and their guests.
  5. The 'Auszug', the nighttime visits of delegations of each of the 26 guilds to several other guilds in their guildhalls to exchange greetings, toasts, witticisms and gifts.


With a few exceptions, the date is fixed to the third Monday in April.

Dates are:

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  2. "Swiss 'groundhog day' forecasts worst ever summer". The Local. 19 April 2016. Retrieved 26 April 2016.

Commons-logo.svg Media related to Sechseläuten at Wikimedia Commons

See also

Coordinates: 47°21′58″N8°32′45″E / 47.3661°N 8.5459°E / 47.3661; 8.5459