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Zibelemarit, a Traditional and Unique Festival in Berne

by Jun Kuzuya
(Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan)

A shop in Zibelemärit

A shop in Zibelemärit

A shop in Zibelemärit Selling skewers of onions Onion handiwork

As you know, Switzerland is a distinctive country: for example, abundant nature, a symbiotic relationship between people and nature, various official languages, and so on. So I think Switzerland is a cultural melting pot! This time, I would like to talk about the traditional and unique festival in Berne.

The name of this festival is Zibelemärit. Do you know it?

"Zibelemärit" is a composite word which means onion and market in German. So, this festival is the "onion market." It sounds very interesting, I think!

This festival is held on the fourth Monday every November and one hundred tons of onions are used. In the market, not only normal onions but also goods which are made from onions are sold. For example, dolls, dragonflies, onions made into a human face, and so on. It's very exciting!

It seems Zibelemärit was held in 1439 for the first time. This festival is derived from a big fire in the 15th century. At that time, farmers outside of the state of Berne couldn't sell their farm products in Berne, in order to protect the status of local farmers.

In 1405, a big fire accident broke out in Berne. The force of the fire was so strong, so the farmers in Berne were having trouble putting out the fire. And then, farmers from neighboring states came to Berne to help out, and they succeeded in putting out the fire.

Due to this big fire, the state of Berne created the Zibelemärit onion market as a place of gratitude to the neighboring farmers.

Because of this, Zibelemärit is a traditional and unique festival. I think that this festival continues to be held as evidence of the gratitude to others. It's very important and a nice thing!

If you have an interest in this festival, I recommend that you visit Berne in November.

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