We watched a snowman’s head explode last night, while horsemen galloped around it in circles, the horses apparently bored with the whole thing.
We actually watched it on television, the event having taken place in Zürich, a 90-minute train ride away. Every spring the Swiss build a huge monument of sticks, doused in some kind of fuel (judging by the orange tint of the flames), topped with a fake snowman packed with explosives to herald the end of winter and the start of spring.
It comes with a parade and all the pomp associated with a royal procession – costumes, marching bands, horses, streets jammed with onlookers, politicians lining up at the microphone.
This strikes us as something the Spanish would do – they love incendiary events over there – but seemed out-of-keeping with the orderly Swiss. You can see the 2008 burning by clicking here.
Last night’s exploding-snowman-head didn’t look safe at all as giant chunks of the snowman flew off in random directions. It was very much like my boys playing with firecrackers, lighting up their little plastic soldiers, only on a grander scale. One expected a pack of Swiss Mommas to shout from the balconies, “Stop that! Don’t make me come down there!”
It’s an odd thing to watch – on the one hand, you have to hand it to the Swiss for celebrating getting through another winter. On the other hand, it’s just a little too close to burning people at the stake, a practice Europeans are known to have excelled at and that migrated to North American (Salem witch trials, anyone?). Sorry to have brought up some unpleasant history.
But Switzerland winters are nothing like that on the Canadian prairies, where similar snowman burning would be a good idea, although, to be a reliable marker of the end of winter, it would have to be held in June.