Snowman Burning Day, Germany
Snowman Burning Day
Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day
Today's Musings, History & Folklore
"Old Snowmen don't die. They just melt away."
A spring festival celebrated on various dates and in different parts of the world, the Swiss version of the Snowman Burning Day, Sechseläuten, involves a giant "Böögg" (related to the English word "bogeyman") fashioned in the shape of a giant snowman and set alight at precisely 6 pm. It is said that the faster the fire reaches the snowman and his head explodes - which is packed with firecrackers - the finer the summer will be. Sausages are grilled over the burning embers of the pyre and people celebrate late into the night.
With variants celebrated throughout Switzerland, Germany, and the United States on different dates, this festival in all its incarnations celebrates the arrival of spring after a long winter.
The idea of burning a snowman to celebrate the start of spring may have origins in the Rose Sunday Festival in Weinheim-an-der-Bergstrasse, Germany, during which the mayor of each town burns a straw snowman (but only if the children have behaved themselves throughout the year).
The Six Bells ceremony, Sechseläuten, a traditional spring holiday in the Swiss city of Zürich, includes the burning of Winter in effigy, in the form of the Böögg, a snowman figure prepared with explosives!
People in Zurich say, "the faster the head explodes, the warmer or better summer will be."
The Sechseläuten festival in its current form dates back to 1867.
It derives its name from the fact that at the spring equinox the bells of Zurich's main cathedral would toll vespers again at six o'clock to announce the end of the working day.
In winter time the working day lasted only until five o'clock due to early dusk.
Gaylord, Michigan, which adopted this tradition now part of their Alpenfest celebration, usually held in March, make their snowmen from cotton wool, and instead celebrating only the transition of seasons, people write their worries and problems down on a piece of paper which they place inside the snowman. The snowman is lit on fire, and it is hoped, all worries and problems disappear with the snowman.
For more on the traditional snowman burning in Switzerland, click the vintage snowman and kilted children by artist M. Russon from the Birmingham School of Design in the World Dolls Series, 1960s.