Spring festivals and customs

Many spring festivals in Switzerland tie in with the religious festival of Easter.

Burning "Böögg" in Zurich
Burning the Böögg, in Zurich – where they “burn” winter too. © Zurich Tourism / Andreas Omvik

Easter is the most important festival in the Christian calendar, and every region has its own way of marking the event. In the Ticino village of Mendrisio, for example, hundreds of local people embark on a sombre Easter procession through the village on Maundy Thursday, the last Thursday of Lent, and Good Friday. The town of Romont in the canton of Fribourg has the “Pleureuses” (Wailing women), a ceremony that dates back to the 15th century and held on Good Friday. Clad head to toe in black, women follow a young girl, the Virgin Mary, chanting and praying as they make their way through the streets of the town.

On Easter Sunday morning, Swiss children set out on a hunt for painted Easter eggs and chocolate bunnies which their parents have hidden around their house or garden. Many regions have their own customs, such as “Eiertütsche” (egg tapping) in German-speaking Switzerland. This involves knocking two eggs together until one of the eggs cracks. The person with the intact egg is the winner.

Sechseläuten

On the third Monday in April the guilds of Zurich don their historical costumes and celebrate the traditional “Sechseläuten” festival with a procession through the streets of the city. Once the parade of the guilds is over, the “Böögg”, a giant artificial snowman made from fabric and wood wool, and packed with explosives, is set alight. It is said that the quicker the head of the snowman explodes, the longer and hotter the summer will be. The event attracts thousands of spectators every year.

Cow fighting

The period between spring and autumn is cow-fighting season in the canton of Valais. Eringer cows lock horns and battle it out for supremacy of the herd and the title of ‘queen’. The cantonal final takes place in May in the village of Aproz.

Patrouille des Glaciers

The Patrouille des Glaciers (patrol of the glaciers) is an international ski mountaineering race organised by the Swiss Armed Forces in which military and civilian teams compete. The route leads from Zermatt to Verbier (or from Arolla to Verbier – shorter route). Each patrol is made up of three runners (military and civilian). This unique competition is characterised by its course profile and length (53 km for the longer course), as well as the challenges of the alpine environment. A total of 4,719 people took part in the 2016 Patrouille des Glaciers. Competitors hailed from 33 countries including Switzerland, France, Italy, Greece, Luxembourg, China, South Africa, and even Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates.