30 April 2021

Happy Labour Day!

Tomorrow is 1 May, International Worker’s Day, or Labour Day. Here is a little history.

Labour Day was actually started in the US. It began in the 1800’s to celebrate workers and all their contributions to society. In Switzerland, and possibly all through Europe, at about the same time workers were really struggling with trying to set the hours for the work day. The eight hour day had not come into being yet, and the workday was 12 hours or even longer.

Labor Day, even in the US, was originally 1 May. It was set to honor the Haymarket Riots in Chicago. When the Labor movement in the US was strong enough to get recognition for a Federal Holiday, President Grover Cleveland decided it could not be 1 May, because he did not want the day to have any link at all to the Riots. From a brief web search, outside of Canada and the US, the rest of the world celebrates Labour Day on the 1st of May.

I will say, the one thing this holiday shows, at least here in Switzerland, is that business rules over the holidays. In the US, we are used to non-religious holidays, always being celebrated on a Monday or Friday so most people get a three day weekend. I can’t speak to the rest of Europe, because I have not checked, but here in Switzerland that practice doesn’t exist. For someone like Julie, the fact that there are eight or nine national holidays really doesn’t matter. If the holiday falls on a weekend, it falls on a weekend. There is no compensation. Julie was talking around Christmas time, that this year, she actually only gets 4 of the holidays because the other 5 all fall on weekends. She didn’t appreciate my comment that I get holidays almost every day of the year! One of these days I will remember to engage my brain before I open my mouth, but I haven’t learned that in 55 years yet, so it might be a while.

In one way it is a weekend like this where I am glad I have not found a job yet. If I was working, we really would have had to scramble to get the grocery shopping done. Sometimes it is very inconvenient that the rest of the world has not caught on with the 24/7/365 pace of the US. With the exception of some stores in the train station or airport, every store will be closed for the next two days. When you normally have groceries in the house for two days. It requires some extra planning to remember the third day. Small problem for sure, but if I forgot…. Someone would be very angry with me that she could not have dinner.

I just got an email from the US embassy telling us to stay away from Bern this weekend. May Day is traditionally a day of demonstrations and protests. There is apparently something going on around the Zytglogge that they want people to stay away from.

Zytglogge

The Zytglogge is one of the most famous landmarks in Bern. It is basically the heart of the historic part of the city. I do have to say I find the warning a little silly. The only thing I think there is to worry about, would be catching COVID. I have not heard of any kind of violent protest in the entire time I have been here.

Next week we have to visit the town offices to renew our residency status. I do find it strange, that we have a 5 year visa yet we have to renew the visa every year. Having never lived out of the US before now, I do not know if this is normal. The only non-citizen immigrants I knew in the US was back when I was in HS, so I do not know if the same is true in the US, or not. I should probably ask Julie’s brother. He is an immigration judge. If anyone would know, it would be him. :).

I also find it strange that we have been here two years already. Well Julie has been here two. I’ve been here about 19 months. Since my visa is tied to hers though, as far as Switzerland is concerned I have been here two years as well. Looking back it does seem we were a little naive with moving. We had convinced ourselves that this would be a three year adventure at the longest. Julie was convinced that the company would want to part ways once the accounting stuff got all set. We really read the wrong tea leaves!! Switzerland does not feel like home, yet, and in many ways, I don’t think it ever will be “home” other than the simple fact that this is where we are living.

Well, it is time to go again. I have some floors that need mopped, and I need to finish the laundry. I hope you all have a wonderful Labour Day Weekend!

20 April 2021

Zürich celebrated their version of Groundhog Day yesterday. The day used to always happen around the Vernal Equinox, which is the first day of Spring. However, around 1950 the celebration was moved to the third weekend of April. The entire celebration is called Sechseläuten. This is translated as the ringing of bells. Back in the “days” the trade guilds of Zürich worked 6 days a week. They had winter hours and summer hours. The winter hours were dawn to dark, the summer hours started at dawn, but ended at 6:00 PM when the Fraumünster bells rang. I find it kind of funny that they celebrated working longer hours, because they got paid a daily rate, which meant they worked more for the same money, but the longer days meant the workers actually got to spend some daylight with their families. Sometime around 1900 the festival included the burning of the snowman.

No one really knows when the tradition of the Böögg started. However, it was commonplace in the late 1600’s. Boys in one of the sections of town started burning snowmen, to celebrate the coming of spring. You know boys, fireworks, flames. What a fantastic combination… Back then there were multiple Bööggen. There were probably contests to see who could build the biggest, or have the biggest explosion. It is thought that Böögg is short hand for the boogeyman, but again, this is something that no one really knows for sure.

Over the years the tradition has become the faster the Böög burns, the better the summer will be. Of course the prediction comes true every year, because it is completely relative, and there is never a definition of what makes a good summer.

Last year the entire festival was cancelled due to Covid. This year, the festival was cancelled, but they still burned the snowman. The burning took place near Andermatt, on the Devil’s Bridge. A place I want to visit this summer. I recorded video of the celebration, but figured no one would like to listen to 6 minutes of German, so I did a little voice over with the history, and then added some music. I hope you enjoy it!

It is another quiet week, so I will have one more post this week, about something. No idea, yet, what I will write about.

Talk to you soon.