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April Fools Day in Switzerland

Every year on April Fools Day, people in Switzerland play pranks on each other. We did this as children and still do it as adults. Also, most Swiss newspapers, radio stations and TV stations allow themselves a little April Fools prank. Much like the famous broadcast about spaghetti growing on trees in Switzerland and Italy  by BBC in 1957, the Swiss insert little made up news stories every on April 1st into their regular programs. When Fake News is to be expected In the last years those fake news stories included e.g. a story about the canton of Appenzell distributing money to its citizens, one about communities in the canton of Thurgau suing the Circus Knie for not giving more performances in their canton, and a story about a chapel wagon for prayer that was added to each train of the Rhätische Bahn. Swiss Radio DRS let their listeners vote on the best pranks of the year. An April Fools Day Riddle Now, I know I am not a newspaper and I cannot as easily hide an untruth in my
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Sechseläuten in Zurich

In a few weeks it's happening again. On Monday April 14th 2023 , the inner city of Zurich will be closed off for any traffic for the annual Sechseläuten . What annoys car drivers and people doing business in the city center is the joy of anyone working or going to school in Zurich or a neighboring town simply because they get an additional free day (or free half-a-day) to enjoy the festivities. But what on earth is this mysterious Sechseläuten and why do only the people of Zurich celebrate it? A why is there a big large snowman and a huge bonfire involved in all this? the Böögg What is Sechseläuten? Sechseläuten is a spring holiday unique to the city of Zurich . The rest of Switzerland and even most towns and places in the canton of Zurich do not celebrate this holiday and no one gets time off to go and participate. It is really a holiday that belongs to the city in a sense that it has its roots in the medieval city structure with guilds and other communities even though i

Seegfrörni - When Lake Zurich Froze Over

Imagine a weather forecast for Switzerland that predicts it's gonna be cold. Very cold. Real freezing. So cold that eventually not only the small ponds and waters but even the big lakes in Switzerland will freeze over. I know, that would be hard to believe when all you get are mild winters? But remember, it hasn't always been this way. Switzerland has seen it's share of very cold winters not so long ago.  The 1962/1963 Seegfrörni in Zurich During the winter of 1962/1963 it was so cold in Switzerland that Lake Zurich froze over! In Swiss German this phenomenon is called ' Seegfrörni ' which simply means 'freezing over of a lake'. For a lake as big as Lake Zurich (about 88  km 2  large and 136m deep) that's pretty impressive. My mom was actually living in the Zurich area in those years and the frozen lake is one of the most vivid and fondest memories of her childhood.  Frozen Lake Zurich - Archive of Stadt Zürich Just imagine, instead of taking

How to Eat Cake in Switzerland

One thing about Switzerland that certainly plays in its favour is the tasty food - most famously Swiss cheese and Swiss chocolate. Personally, I also think in Switzerland you can find some of world's best breads and pastries. Think about the braided Sunday bread called Zopf and the large variety of Christmas cookies for example. And those are just the tip of the culinary iceberg so to speak. However, today I want to talk about cakes and especially a famous Swiss cake which just happens to be one of my favourites as well. I'll also touch on the unwritten rules you have to follow in order to politely eat cake in Switzerland. Something that is indeed very typical behaviour of Swiss persons . Swiss Carrot Cake - Michaela Schöllhorn  / The Origins of a Swiss Carrot Cake The cake I will talk about is named after the region of Switzerland I grew up in, the canton of Aargau  and is called the Argovian Carrot Cake (in Swiss German: 'Aargauer Rüeblitorte') . I

How to Choose a Seat on a Bus in Switzerland

Swiss Postautos - Sommaruga Fabio  / It's very common in Switzerland to take a bus to work. Since public transportation in Switzerland is quite convenient and punctual this is perfectly fine alternative to driving yourself to work. Of course, public transportation in Switzerland isn't cheap but putting gas into your car is definitely becoming expensive as well plus you get the traffic jams that are very hard to avoid and cost a lot of time and nerves. According to the Swiss Ministry of Statistics almost 30% of working people use public transportation to go to work .  So if you're part of that Swiss group, lets do the math: if you take the bus to and from work and work five days a week, we can safely assume that you ride a bus in Switzerland at least ten times a week . This was true for myself as well for many years as well but I have since completely switched to remote work. An interesting observation While riding the bus to work a few years ago, I observed

A Visit by Swiss Santa

If there is one ingredient of Christmas that has spread all around the globe by now, it's probably the person of Santa Claus, Papa Noël, Père Noël or Father Christmas which are all loosely based on the historic figure of Saint Nicholas . In Switzerland, this red-clothed and white-bearded figure is called ' Samichlaus ' and despite the obvious similarities to the other Santa Claus versions, the Swiss Christmas tradition involving his visit is quite different. Samichlaus & Schmutzli -  Alwin Gasser  / The Swiss Santa Claus Tradition Unlike in the United States or other places around the globe, Santa Claus visits Switzerland not on the 24th but on the 6th of December. He also does not bring gifts but instead carries a huge bag filled with chocolates, peanuts and mandarines for everyone to share. However, he doesn't simply share these sweet treasures with everyone because first, he evaluates every possible recipient. In Switzerland the Christmas gifts

How to Create Your Own Christmas Calendar

Another year is over and Christmas is just around the corner. The streets and stores are filled with lights and glittering decorations. It's the time of the year you  drink hot wine with spices  and eat home made cookies.  In Switzerland another Christmas tradition  will be starting soon, the tradition of  Christmas calendars . Advent is the season of waiting and preparation  before the actual Christmas on December 25th. As in many parts of Europe, people in Switzerland enjoy the tradition of counting the days until Christmas eve. This is usually done with an Advent Calendar, also called a  Christmas Calendar,  which counts the 24 days from December 1st o 24th or an Advent Wreath  that counts the last four Sundays before Christmas.  What are Swiss Christmas Calendars?  In Switzerland, Christmas calendars are used during the Christmas season starting from December 1st until December 24th. It's the children who enjoy them most although some grown ups can be just as excited about

How to Create a Paper Christmas Calendar

"O du fröhliche, o du selige Gnadenbringende Weihnachtszeit!  Welt ging verloren  Christ ist geboren  Freue, freue dich, o Christenheit!" As I'm listening to this famous German Christmas Carol  which talks of Christ's birth, I remember the Christmasses of my childhood. Beautifully decorated houses with advent wreaths and Christmas trees and the smell of Christmas cookies baking in the oven. If we were lucky - and many times we were! - it would snow on the days leading up to Christmas and we could build snowmen and use our sleds to slide down the local sledding hill.  Another thing that was a constant companion of those Christmas days were the different advent calendars that we had in our home. My mother hung up a beautiful nativity scene where the stars were put up one by one as the days went by. 23 stars and one special one in the form of a shooting star. We also had a classic calendar with 24 numbered small bags with treats inside. And, of course, we all had our o