Europe

High Winds Scuttle Burning of Snowman in Zurich, Disappointing the Swiss

Imagine if Punxsutawney Phil just didn’t show up one year. How would people know how much longer winter would last?

People in Zurich found themselves in a similar state of limbo this week.

On Monday, high winds disrupted the city’s annual spring festival, a Swiss version of Groundhog Day that includes a parade and the ceremonial burning of a fake snowman — an effigy of winter — whose head is packed with fireworks.

The parades went off without a hitch. But when the time came for the festival’s grand finale, the burning and explosion of the snowman atop a pyre, high winds kicked up and the ceremony was scuttled for safety reasons.

People from Appenzell, in northeastern Switzerland, leaving the festival after the announcement that the snowman would not be set ablaze.Credit…Fabrice Coffrini/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The festival, Sechseläuten, takes place on the third Monday of April. Its name roughly translates to “the six o’clock ringing of the bells.” The snowman is called the Böögg, a term that likely has its roots in the English word boogeyman.

Here’s how the day usually goes: At 3 p.m. sharp, about 3,500 members of Zurich’s ancient guilds — associations of artisans or tradesmen that date to the Middle Ages — embark on a parade. They wear traditional attire and accept flowers from spectators. The parade also includes floats and hundreds of people on horseback.

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