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Beetroot Lanterns

It's been a beautiful fall this year. Now, the leaves have fallen from the trees and the days are getting shorter and shorter. It's once more the season of cozy evenings by the fire or hot punch on the ice skating rink. Traditionally, these last fall days are also filled with lantern processions (in Swiss German "Räbeliechtliumzug"), where primary school kids walk around town with lanterns ("Räbeliechtli") made from beetroots. And no, this is not a Swiss version of Halloween despite the obvious similarities; let me explain.

The tradition of making lanterns from beetroots has its origins in the celebration of the last harvest of the year. Beetroots were amongst the last vegetables harvested and I assume that is why they were originally chosen for this craft. In the circle of the family, children hollowed and carved their beetroots and put a candle inside to turn it into a lantern.


Today, beetroots are grown almost only for the purpose of lantern-making and the carving takes place in schools or kindergartens mainly. With the help of parents and teachers, the kids carefully empty their beetroots and try to carve beautiful patterns on them. Moon and stars are a very popular symbol but sometimes a child prefers a car or a pony. Cutting accidents are quite frequent during those carving hours but I have never heard of any serious injury due to beetroot carving. Three strings are attached to the beetroot, a candle put inside and the lantern is ready for use.

The schools (with the help of the community government) also organize the annual beetroot lantern procession. The street lights are turned off in most parts of town for the time the kids walk through it in a long procession with their lanterns. Typically, there is also a lot of singing involved. Songs such as "I walk with my lantern" have been part of the childhood of most Swiss. It is quite an experience for a child to walk through a dark town with only the light of the lanterns shining and I still find it rather beautiful as a grown up.

A short video of a Räbeliechtliumzug in Würenlos:






© 2011 IRENE WYRSCH "A HUMOROUS GUIDE TO SWITZERLAND" ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Comments

  1. I absolutely love this post. Gosh, you really took me straight back to my childhood this time....and we are talking nearly 40 years (I hate to admit).
    Spot-on description of a Räbeliechtliumzug and lovely background info.
    Thanks for this little mement down memory lane!

    ReplyDelete

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