Recently my entire family participated in a harvest festival event that dates back to the mid 19th century held here in Switzerland called Räbeliechtliumzug. I can barely pronounce it, but we did it.
What is it?
It’s a celebration of the last harvest and a welcoming of winter. Saying good bye to summer and autumn, and hello to winter. The children in kindergarten get to carve turnips into lanterns during the day and then parade with these lanterns through the streets at night.
As an American, I am familiar with carving pumpkins. Turnips are much harder to do this with as the insides are very hard and have to be scooped out spoon by spoon. Like any carving project, the parents do most of the work. My kids’ interest lasted about 10 minutes. Once she saw how hard it was to scoop out, she decided she had to go color us a picture.
So we were given 5 turnips as there were going to be 5 of us at the parade in the evening but after hollowing out 2 turnips we decided all we needed was one for each kid. We started out strong but after a few, man…it can get tiring. Also – I think you are supposed to do your design on the outside of the turnip first before hollowing out. We did it backwards, but we got there in the end.
Once we had hollowed out our 3 turnips, we put our designs (which consisted of zig zags, one with a heart, another one with some stars) we tied out strings so that the kids could carry. We took the turnips home and waited for the evening.
Everyone in the community met at a central meeting location. There were hundreds of people. I had no idea the event would be that big (or that there were actually that amount of kindergartners). It was dark so we were not able to find my daughters class but that didn’t matter. We were lucky enough to meet up with our neighbors. Once the clock struck 7pm, the street lights went off, the band started playing and the procession through the neighborhood began.
Once the street lights went off, it was so dark. The parade went through a designated course that included several neighborhood streets, a long trek through the woods along the river and back to the street. The kids kept getting lost because they were just moving with the flow of the crowd. We had to stop often to regroup, but it was fun. The kids sang along the way. My daughter proudly singly loudly as a way to show us that A. she knew the song and B. that she could sing it in German. It was cute.
As it was our first Räbeliechtliumzug, we had no idea what to do but show up. The tea light candles inside the lantern finished half way through our parade. Ugh…why didn’t I bring more?! Our neighbors candles – also newbies to Räbeliechtliumzug – finished as well. That didn’t deter from the fun, it only meant that our section of the parade was dark for the last half. Next time we will bring more tea light candles or get battery operated one (which I did see parents had put in some – totally makes sense).
Unfortunately as it was so dark I was not able to get any good pictures but the ones below are some examples of the carts pulled by the teachers for the duration of the parade.
The parade ended at an open area where all the different classes were able to meet up and enjoy a snack. We were able to find my daughter’s teacher, say hello, have a snack and talk about the event for a moment. There was hot drinks for the parents and the band music just added to the festive atmosphere.
Overall it was a very enriching experience. It got us out in the cold crisp air, we walked for over an hour, and we got to experience a piece of Swiss culture. I have to admit, seeing all the beautfThis event didn’t happen last year in our community and I was told by the teacher that it happens every other year. I don’t know if that is community specific. The first thing I thought was that we will get to do again with our littlest one as she will be in Kindergarten in 2 years time.
Maybe by then, I will be able to pronounce it properly…..Räbeliechtliumzug