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Goodbye To Winter! (Or So The Swiss Hope)

Wikimedia Commons
Vogel Gryff mural in Basel.

The Vogel Gryff Festival, held in Switzerland, could be described as wishful thinking, because January 13th 2014, is most certainly, not remotely or positively anywhere near the end of winter! But since the 13th century, Swiss folk in Basel have enjoyed this fun event that aims to chase away the winter, and also mocks the city elite.

There are three main characters: the first is the wooly Wild Maa, who represents fertility. His job is to dance continuously with his back turned to the neighborhood of Basel’s elite. The other two characters in the celebration are a lion named Leu and a griffin, Vogel Gryff. All three arrive on a raft floating down the Rhine River. The wild man carries an uprooted pine tree which he brandishes at spectators and dignitaries alike. A cannon blast at noon initiates the dance between the three, a rather ungainly spectacle which delights the hundreds of children in attendance. The dancers pay homage to a Guild representative who is paying for the theatricals. When the dance ends people make their way to the various Guild Halls which house restaurants, and enjoy a hearty lunch. Throughout the evening and night hours, jesters go from door to door taking up a collection for the poor. Since March is still a couple of months away, and with spring temperatures in the northern city ranging from 41 to 58 degrees even in June, old man winter will require more than the Vogel Gryff Festival to drive him underground.

Learn more about this and other celebrations happening around the world this week on World Music with Deirdre Saravia, Saturday nights at 8:00 on KSTX 89.1 FM.

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Deirdre as born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and her first paid work was at the age of 10 with the BBC as an actress on "Children's Hour." She continued to perform regularly on radio and stage for the next eight years, at which point she was informed by her parents that theater was not an option and she needed "real" work.