November 22nd, 2010

It’s a very Bernese tradition, the Zibelemärit: the annual onion market held on the fourth Monday in November. There are conflicting stories about how this market got started – Bernese legend has it that in appreciation for helping to fight a devestating fire in Bern in 1405, the people of Freiburg were given the right to sell their produce (and their produce, apparantly, was onions) at the market in Bern. That’s probably apocrophal, but it’s the story I like best and it’s the one my father-in-law would tell if you asked him about the Zibelmärit. Other more likely but less resonant stories point to a connection to festivals surrounding St. Martin’s Day. Whatever the origins, Zibelmärit has turned into one of the biggest festival days in Bern, probably second only to Fasnacht (carnival).

It’s actually a pretty big deal for the farmers of the region, who have their stalls up and running by 5am. Up to 50 tons of onions will be sold at the market, largely in the form of decorative Zöpfen

or garlands

You also all manner of onion figurines – these ones are dressed in the different uniforms of the teams in the Swiss National Hockey League:

(The predominantly yellow jersey is our local team – that’s an old jersey design – and the red one to the left is our local rival.)

Farmers also sell plain onions in bulk. Those are gone early and I’m assuming they’re snapped up by restaurants. There is Zibelechueche (an onion quiche which I’ve never liked) and Chäschueche (cheese quiche for the people who don’t like onion quiche and I’ve never really like that, either) and onion soup and to drink, plenty of Glühwein, which I do like.

And there is confetti. I don’t know how old the throwing confetti at people and wacking them on the head with plastic hammers tradtion has been around, but my husband did it when he was a boy so it’s been around a while. We got the boys spring-loaded confetti launchers and a few bags of confetti and they had a great time shooting people. And us.

And each other.

Because if you can’t shoot your brother in the face with a little confetti, what’s the point of Zibelemärit anyway?

2 Responses to “Zibelemärit”

  1. rswb on November 23, 2010 9:51 am

    Aah, that’s all very illuminating. I was asking R yesterday what the origins of the market were and he didn’t know. And then he told me that he managed to avoid getting pelted with confetti, which was a bit disappointing (to me). When he got out his winter coat this year when the weather turned cooler again, he found some confetti residue from the last time he was confettied last carneval season.

    In other questions – how do you resolve the santa/samichlaus/christkindli christmas present story? No is obviously a bit young to appreciate any of it, but Reto and I want to get our story straight nonetheless. At this point we seem to be leaning towards local rules – in Switzerland the Swiss story wins, in Aus the Australian one does.

  2. Jennifer on November 28, 2010 1:33 pm

    We’ll be finding confetti right up until about February, just in time to drag new confetti in from Fasnacht!

    We play both stories – Samiclaus on Dec 6 brings little treats – the traditional mandarins and peanuts and maybe some Lebkuechen and some chocolate. Santa Claus comes overnight and presents are waiting Christmas morning. I never thought about them being in conflict, which I guess they are – I’ve just always treated them as two different people. Inside our house we lean towards US Christmas traditions with Rudolph the Red-Nosed Raindeer and How the Grinch Stole Christmas and leaving milk and cookies overnight for Santa.

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