Saturday, April 19, 2008

Der Böögg

"I realised at that moment that all my girlfriends have been mental or using me as a distraction from their upcoming exams. The bad dreams always come on Fridays. They are always about girls I like. They are repetitive in nature. I wake feeling inadequate and disorientated - write that down, disorientated - and the day passes and I wait for sleep." I drew circles on the table with my index finger. "You are lucky your English is bad, because when you dream in English, your dreams are neither vivid nor escapable."

"Is this going to be in the exam?"

"What exam?"

"The exam we are studying for." Students. Exams. Whatever. Better than dreaming.

"Oh, that. Don't worry about it," I sighed. "I'm good at exams and I don't get stressed about them. Just relax and you'll be fine. Let's talk about something important. I want to know why I have Monday off."

"Monday? Oh, it's because of Der Böögg," said a student.

I looked up. "Excuse me?"

"Der Böögg. You must know about Der Böögg. No? Well, he's a snowman. And once a year we burn him on a big fire and his head explodes."

"You burn... a snowman?"

"At six o'clock. It's important because he tells us how long summer will be. If it takes a long time for his head to pop, summer will be bad. And, ipso facto, vice versa."

"Is this still a dream? Where's my ...?"

"Look, it's simple. In the olden days, the rich people of Zurich used to take a peasant and put him on a big fire and he'd scream how long the summer would last and then the explosives strapped to his head would explode." My student gestured a messy explosion. "Then the bankers would buy or sell wheat futures and corn derivatives and make a ton of money. Zurich is the only canton in Switzerland with this tradition and it is by far the richest. Coincidence? Impossible."

Another student spoke up. "When the head exploded, the brains would splatter on nearby poormen, and the one with the most brain on his coat would be Der Böögg the next year. For one year he'd be the toast of the town, and then his head would explode lucratively."

The first student took up the story once more. "But over time it became unseemly to explode a poor person so frankly. Political correctness and that. So in the late seventies, they were encased within a snowman and the explosives replaced with fireworks. It's better for the kids, and costs less in psychiatry. So that's why you have a day off."


  1. dunstermunster0712:40 PM

    Too true, too true. It must be said that not only one person is burnt on the fire. In the wood stack of the fire several hapless homeless people, junkies, wastrels or otherwise undesirables are secreted, bound and then gagged.

    I believe that the woman selling papers outside coop in Stauffacher was one of the victims this year. Her shrill cry has been mysteriously missing since Monday.

    It should also be noted that the galloping horses are not there just for pomp & ceremony! No, no! They are there in case any of the burning undesirables escape from the fire stack.

    "Tread their pauper corpses into the mud" Zurich mayor Tobias von Burgermeuster said haughtily before the fire was lit. This is the true function of the galloping horses.

    It should also be mentioned that the BBQ that we have today is a mockery of a much darker tradition. In the past when the Böögg and paupers had been roasted on the fire their immolated flesh would be handed around and eaten by the excited crowd. If there was not enough fleisch to go around then parts of the Lepers in the precession from the carnival parade would be used.

    A dark celebration indeed.

  2. I forgot about the horses! But dunstermunster, I believe the name of the villainous mayor is Tobias von Bööggermeister. His family have organised the event for more than eight generations.

  3. Being of a downright optimistic and positive nature, and having above all been in the lucky position to experience the Bögg burning for a second time this year, I can impossibly support or even accept the utterly dark vision on the “Sechseläuten” event that has been stated here.

    There is much less to this mysterious Swiss tradition, followed by a people formerly living scattered to separate valleys that at some point in history grew together, to finally form the unprincipled capitalist society of today.
    The erstwhile geographically favored state of blissful ignorance is being kept alive, and so persists the inicial idea of good and evil, represented by summer and winter at this special occasion.

    One might wonder why, in the imagination of the people, such an unrealistic version of the dying winter spirit is being kept alive, since – as everyone knows - snow doesn’t burn. When exposed to high temperatures, it turns into water which in turn symbolizes fertility and hereby should be connected to summer and the positive spirits rather than to winter. Turns out that this is an illogical approach, very typical however for unruly tribes.
    (Also, the fascination with noise and excitement, caused by one of the most profund human instincts, the hunger for danger, - satisfied by “hidden” explosives in the body of the snowman - shows the simple-mindedness of both spectators and the keenly involved.)
    However, it is unevitable to say that most aesthetic aspects of the tradition of course have gone missing in the lore. So nowadays, the winter is embodied by a simple snowman rather than what one would have called the “winter lord”. There are no evidents but we should imagine a strong, buff creature with an icy gloom in its eyes, baring its teeth.

    More evidents can be found that would proof the very plainness of the yearly Bögg spectacle – a frugal, yet stirring event that hasn’t got – and never had - any other objective than to celebrate the winter’s leave and to welcome the fruit- and joyful summer months.


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