The streets in Zurich were eerily quiet on a sunny Monday morning in the normally bustling city of Zurich, but this was not unusual for the day of Sechseläuten, Zurich’s traditional ushering in of the spring and the biggest celebration of the year which sees most businesses close for business for the day.
The century-old tradition of burning a straw effigy bearing a strong resemblance to a snowman to drive out evil winter spirits in the center of Zurich marks the official end to snowy winters in Zurich.
The burning of the snowman, known as the Böögg, is preceded by a colorful parade of Zurich guilds which draws thousands of spectators into the city center.
Onlookers, equipped with their first “Bratwurst” of the year in one hand and a cool beer in the other, gather for climactic burning of the Böögg on the Sechseläuten square by the lake in central Zurich.
The snowman is loaded with explosives and a bonfire is traditionally lit below the Böögg at 6 pm.
Zurichers believe the straw snowman has predictive powers: the quicker the fire reaches the Böögg's head, blowing it to pieces with a deafening explosion, the sooner warm temperatures will arrive and the longer the summer will be.
On Monday, it took the Böögg some 10 minutes and 58 seconds to explode, short of its 14 minute average over the last 10 years, promising an early and warm summer for the bankers’ city.
In 2010, the snowman took some 2 minutes longer to explode.The summer that followed in Zurich though, was mixed.
Unsurprisingly, the meteorological predictive power of the snowman has been questioned.
Researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology found that while the Böögg bang is not a good indicator of short-term local weather, it is a good indicator of global climate change.