Onions flood Bern: this is the curious Zibelemärit festival in the Swiss capital

Desserts

Today the streets of the city of Bern have dawned taken by a curious protagonist, the onion, in all its shapes and colors. And it is that the last Thursday of November is celebrated in the Swiss capital Zibelemärit, a festival dedicated entirely to the onion that fills the old town with a very special atmosphere -and aroma.

He Zibelemärit It is one of the most peculiar events in Switzerland, a tradition of popular origin that combines folklore, tradition, gastronomy and crafts. The Swiss love celebrations that highlight the most national products and customs, and the great onion festival is the perfect occasion to praise the work of the fields in a pre-Christmas atmosphere where, of course, you eat and drink very good.

A much loved holiday centuries old

As with so many popular festivals, it is difficult to find the exact origin of the Zibelemärit, but it is known that its tradition dates back to the beginning of the 15th century. One of the legends tells that in 1405 there was a catastrophic fire that destroyed more than 600 houses in the center of the city, also leaving many dead. Given the seriousness of the situation, many nearby towns came to the aid, highlighting the help that came from Freiburg.

When the flames were smothered, the residents of the French-speaking canton also collaborated in the reconstruction, and in gratitude the Bernese allowed them to sell their onion harvest within the city each autumn.

It is also said that the origin of this festival would simply be in the specific market dedicated to onion that would be created sometime in the 15th century. It seems that in the first urban market in Bern everything was sold except onions, so a specific place of sale for them was finally established.

Be that as it may, in Bern the custom was established to dedicate a date to the harvest of onions and garlic, already at the end of November, with all the produce already harvested before the arrival of winter. The perfect time to fill the pantry well with a product that is gastronomically valued, but fundamental in the kitchen.

The big day of showing off the onion, in every imaginable way

If you think an onion festival is boring, you don't know the Swiss very well. They may not have a reputation for being the most partying or partying town in the world, but when they do something, they do it well. They put a lot of care and affection into their traditions, and know how to pamper local products and customs like no one else.

We wish you all a wonderful Zibelemrit #ilovebern #inlovewithswitzerland #visitswitzerland #zibelemrit

Nor do they mind getting up early, as anyone who wants to see sunrise this day can see by watching an army of onions and garlic take over the center of the city. The market officially starts at 6 in the morning but hours before the stalls and decorations that adorn the streets and the main square begin to rise.

Farmers, producers and artisans dress the old center with beautiful garlands of colored onions and garlic, with flowers and other natural products of the region. And in the more than 200 positions that already make up the Zibelemärit not only can you buy onions of all sizes, shapes and colors, there are also crowns, ornaments, toys, textiles, preserves and all kinds of handicrafts, always with the onion as the protagonist.

There is no shortage of food and drink, with the Glühwein as a star to warm up, which the cold is already pressing on. Onion soup, onion pie, Bratwurst sausages -yes, with onion-, pizza with onion, stews and onion stews ... Luckily for those who are less fond of its flavor, there is no shortage of other typical Swiss specialties in street stalls and restaurants in the area, already with Christmas sweets -like Lebkuchen looking for its place.

The market spreads through the main streets of the old town, and also different activities are held to further enliven the atmosphere. Like a carnival troupe, the Zibelegringe masked men spends the day singing through the streets and taverns various historical feats of the city, and is done after the appointment of the Oberzibelegring, an orchestra accompanies the group marching to the rhythm of the music.

In the afternoon, when the sun goes down - that is, early - one of the most popular events takes place, the rain of colored confetti and toy hammers that everyone plays at throwing each other, in a kind of festive battle , already preparing the closing of the festival.

Who would have imagined that the onion could give so much of itself? It is clear that with a little imagination and the desire to have a good time even the most humble product can generate a massive celebration that attracts thousands of visitors each year. Something tells me that the Bernese would come out on the side of the concebollistas in our endless debate about the potato omelette.

Photos | Joel Bez - Lisa Stevens

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