Gansabhauet


Category:
Social practices
Canton:

Description

Also famous outside the region, Gansabhauet is a ritual held on St Martin's Day, 11 November, in Sursee. A dead goose is suspended from the back of its head, and participants (mostly young men but also some women) attempt to sever its neck with a blunt sabre. During the ceremony, they are blindfolded by a pointed cap which covers the face, and also wear a golden sun mask and a red cloak. Before striking their single blow, they reach out for the goose with awkward movements in order to ascertain its position and work out the ideal impact point. The order of the participants is determined by drawing lots. It usually takes between five and twenty blows to decapitate the two geese. The action takes place on a stage before the town hall in front of around 3,000 spectators. Also included in the programme are various games for children and young people such as pole climbing, sack races and gurning (pulling faces) – the latter event is known as 'Chäszänne', because the children are rewarded for their efforts with a piece of cheese. Gansabhauet is brought to a close in the evening with the 'Räbeliechtli-Umzug', a procession of lanterns made from turnips, as well as a festive meal of goose dishes in the town hall and surrounding restaurants. The origins of this ritual are unclear, but are likely to date back to the late Middle Ages. Having disappeared from the festival calendar around 1820, Gansabhauet was revived in 1863.

Image gallery

  • At the centre of the action: a dead goose hanging from a wire, Rathausplatz Sursee, 2004 © Bruno Meier, Sursee / Gansabhauet-Komitee, Sursee
  • The order of the hundred or so participants is determined by drawing lots, 2004 © Bruno Meier, Sursee / Gansabhauet-Komitee, Sursee
  • Before striking the blow, participants feel the goose's neck, 2004 © Bruno Meier, Sursee / Gansabhauet-Komitee, Sursee
  • A participant getting ready to strike, 2004 © Bruno Meier, Sursee / Gansabhauet-Komitee, Sursee
  • A drummer and a timpanist accompanying the masked figure, Rathausplatz 1938 © Sammlung Ernst Brunner, Schweizerisches Institut für Volkskunde, Basel
  • Around 3,000 spectators gather on the Rathausplatz to watch the spectacle, 2004 © Bruno Meier, Sursee / Gansabhauet-Komitee, Sursee
  • The accompanying programme for children: boys attempting to catch sausages in their mouths, 2004 © Bruno Meier, Sursee / Gansabhauet-Komitee, Sursee
  • Children at the Gansabhauet festival. Sticker in a collector's album on traditional Swiss customs, 1954 © Nestlé Historical Archives, Vevey
  • At the centre of the action: a dead goose hanging from a wire, Rathausplatz Sursee, 2004 © Bruno Meier, Sursee / Gansabhauet-Komitee, Sursee
  • The order of the hundred or so participants is determined by drawing lots, 2004 © Bruno Meier, Sursee / Gansabhauet-Komitee, Sursee
  • Before striking the blow, participants feel the goose's neck, 2004 © Bruno Meier, Sursee / Gansabhauet-Komitee, Sursee
  • A participant getting ready to strike, 2004 © Bruno Meier, Sursee / Gansabhauet-Komitee, Sursee
  • A drummer and a timpanist accompanying the masked figure, Rathausplatz 1938 © Sammlung Ernst Brunner, Schweizerisches Institut für Volkskunde, Basel
  • Around 3,000 spectators gather on the Rathausplatz to watch the spectacle, 2004 © Bruno Meier, Sursee / Gansabhauet-Komitee, Sursee
  • The accompanying programme for children: boys attempting to catch sausages in their mouths, 2004 © Bruno Meier, Sursee / Gansabhauet-Komitee, Sursee
  • Children at the Gansabhauet festival. Sticker in a collector's album on traditional Swiss customs, 1954 © Nestlé Historical Archives, Vevey

References and documentation

Publications
  • Edgar Harvolk: «Strangulatio Anserum». Meinungen und Materialien zu einem volkstümlichen Wettkampfspiel. In: Bayerisches Jahrbuch für Volkskunde. München, 1978/79, p. 95-101

  • Stefan Röllin: Gansabhauet in Sursee. In: Das Jahr der Schweiz in Fest und Brauch. Ed. Rolf Thalmann. Zürich, 1981, p. 263-264

  • Erik de Vroede: Menschen spielen mit Tieren. Ganswurf, Gansritt, Hahnenschlagen. In: Mensch und Tier. Kulturwissenschaftliche Aspekte einer Sozialbeziehung (Hessische Blätter für Volks- und Kulturforschung 27). Siegfried Becker, Andreas C. Bimmer. Marburg, 1991, p. 61-81

  • Martina Odermatt: Nach sechs Schlägen wars vorbei. In: Luzerner Zeitung, 12. November 2016, p. 24

  • Claudio Zanini: Die 13 bringt ihm wieder Glück. In: Neue Luzerner Zeitung, 12. November 2015, p. 25

Documentation
  • Gansabhauet

    Ausführliche Beschreibung Last modification: 04.06.2018
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