Autumn celebrated with curious traditions

The goose gives up the ghost in Sursee Keystone Archive

The ritual of beheading the goose practiced each year in central Switzerland has to rate as one of the most bizarre traditions in the country.

This content was published on November 3, 2001

On November 11, locals in Sursee in canton Lucerne gather in the centre of town to take turns trying to "Behead the Goose".

A goose is killed, and then brought to a wooden stage in front of the town hall, where it's strung onto a wire.

Blindfolded and wearing a customary red robe and sun mask, people take turns trying to behead the bird.

The origins of the event are unclear but it's believed to have been part of a medieval ceremony that accompanied the handing over of a payment in kind to the landlord, traditionally on November 11.

The festival of St Martin

At the same time, people across the country will be celebrating the less bizarre but equally traditional farmer's festival dedicated to St Martin. In Vevey on Lake Geneva, thousands of people are expected once again to pack the market square and streets (November 13 this year) to purchase a wide range of local produce and handicrafts.

The traditional dish of the day is "Papet Vaudois" - a leek and sausage specialty accompanied by mulled wine.

St Martin's Fair (Western feast day, November 11) was traditionally the time when peasant farmers paid their tithes to the church, and when alms were given to the poor.

Onions galore

Bern's onion market traces its history back to the 15th century, when according to legend, the market was allowed after farmers from the neighbouring Fribourg region helped in the cleanup following the city fire of 1405.

At dawn on November 26, farmers from surrounding areas will converge on the city with truckloads of onions and garlic, and other produce.

Onions are heaped high on the tables and twisted into decorative garlands. They are also the chief ingredients in the tasty onion tarts, which are offered for sale with spicy mulled wine to keep out the cold.

From onions to beets

A procession of lanterns carved out of beets is the highlight of a traditional festival held in canton Zurich, but which is increasing popular with children across the country.

The largest and most traditional festival is the "Räbechilbi" in the town of Richterswil on Lake Zurich. At exactly 6:30pm - this year on November 10 - more than 1,000 children and adults will proceed through the darkened town carrying impressively sculpted beet lanterns.

Tradition has it that the town's women in the 19th century used hollow-out beets to light the way to the evening church service.


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