Zürich’s Sechseläuten through the lens of a professional photographer

Sechseläuten Zürich by Cloudia Chen

Access to front row views of Zürich's spring festival - that's one of the perks of being a photographer for the Zürich tourism office.

Nonetheless, I felt very fortunate to be treated with this uninhibited view! From my reserved photographer's spot, I was able to get up close and personal with the Böögg... It was an awesome performance to witness the culmination of Sechseläuten from a VIP's point of view. Without knowing the right people, most "normal" people will surely have missed this stunning scene.

Now, let me show you what I witnessed at Sechseläuten (which is called "Sächsilüüte" in the local Swiss German dialect)!

On the Sunday of the festival weekend, there is a popular children's parade.

Sechseläuten Zürich by Cloudia Chen

About 2000 to 3000 children aged between 5 and 15 years will walk through downtown Zürich dressed in historical costumes. They are accompanied by around 800 musicians from youth formations based in the Zürich region.

Sechseläuten Zürich by Cloudia Chen

There is a special group of performers who always prepare carefully and perform especially hard. It is the Chinese Student Association along with kids who attend the Chinese school in Zürich.

Sechseläuten Zürich by Cloudia Chen

Meet the team of students and scholars from ETH and the University of Zurich:

Sechseläuten Zürich by Cloudia Chen

Along the parade, people will call out "Hello, China!" or "NIHAO" while applauding. It is real spiritual support for the participants.

Sechseläuten Zürich by Cloudia Chen

Then on Monday, the main event takes place. Notice the Böögg, a snowman figure measuring 3.4 meters in height? Ìt is placed on the top of a 10 meter tall bonfire.

Sechseläuten Zürich by Cloudia Chen

Zürich's guilds who have performed in the weekend's parades are also included in the inner circle. To them, it is an honor to get so close to the explosion of the Böögg.

Sechseläuten Zürich by Cloudia Chen
Sechseläuten Zürich by Cloudia Chen

Every year since 1991, a different Swiss canton is invited to take part in Sechseläuten as a special guest. Politicians of that canton have the opportunity to walk the parade as honorary guests. Meanwhile, regional specialties are served on the Lindenhof square. The guest canton in 2018 was Basel-Stadt.

Sechseläuten Zürich by Cloudia Chen

The bonfire underneath the Böögg is lit up at 6 PM sharp. By this time, the 3500 guild members wearing historical attire, traditional costumes and uniforms, will arrive at the Sechseläutenplatz in front of the opera house. (Yes, Zürich has named a plaza after the spring festival!)

 

Some of the 350 horsemen that participated in the parade will start to circle the fire on their horses.

Sechseläuten Zürich by Cloudia Chen
Sechseläuten Zürich by Cloudia Chen

Historically, women were not allowed to ride horses. Women riders are still a controversial sight to some.

Sechseläuten Zürich by Cloudia Chen

Here, the Böögg is about to explode. The tradition is to ask the Böögg to forecast the weather for the coming summer. It is said that the faster the fire reaches the snowman figure and the sooner his head explodes, the finer the summer will be. Wait for it...


 

When a specific guild representing a region shows up, the group of audience members from the same region will cheer them on. It was fun to watch the kids and their excited expressions when they spotted their parents.

Sechseläuten Zürich by Cloudia Chen
Sechseläuten Zürich by Cloudia Chen

Their parents waved back at them - and at the thousands of delighted spectators!

Sechseläuten Zürich by Cloudia Chen

(All photographs copyright Cloudia Chen)

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Cloudia Chen

Cloudia is a writer, traveler, curator and Chinese blogger. She loves to capture the essence of life; the goose-bump moments full of love, the wild and silly moments full of giggles and laughter.

Previously based in China, Hong Kong, London and the South of France, Cloudia currently lives in Zürich.
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