Jungfrau Zeitung – The Zibelemärit, almost like it used to be

Bern | 22. November 2021

The cold tip of the nose, the hot mulled wine, the colorful confetti. When it was drizzling, the traditional market in the capital came to life. Onlookers have been strolling through the streets since four in the morning, drinking hot drinks and examining the artfully braided onions. As an accompanying protective measure because of the current tense situation, the stand operators were prohibited from selling alcohol.

Every visitor gets it, confetti.Photos: Ben Abegglen

Today there was something sweet instead of sour around the Bundeshaus.

Today there was something sweet instead of sour around the Bundeshaus.

A market like no other

You return home from the Zibelemärit, frozen through but with a warm heart. The creaking noise of the rubber hammers reverberates in the ears, which especially younger visitors like to knock down on their heads. When you open your jacket, dozens of small, colorful scraps of memory flutter through the air. Confetti. Even hours after returning home, the stubborn scraps of paper can be found in the most impossible parts of the body. But let’s start where it all begins on the fourth Monday in November. At the largest market in Bern.

There are people there, so I don’t want to complain

Hans Born Operator of Housi’s Mandle- u Rahmtäfeli stand Bern

Early in the morning, the first onlookers stroll through the Bernese streets.

Early in the morning, the first onlookers stroll through the Bernese streets.

It is early in the morning. The capital sleeps, or at least a large part of it. But already shortly after four o’clock, busy stallholders start to bustle in the alleys of Bern. They set up stalls, spread out onions, sweets, sacks of confetti, every now and then a large saucepan steams with a promising delicacy in it. It would be easy to make it clear to an outsider that the desire to buy onions in the middle of the night does not necessarily have to be treated therapeutically, if one showed them the wonderfully fragrant, beautifully decorated market stalls.

The history of the Zibelemärit

The roots of this traditional “fairy tale” go back hundreds of years. Since the late Middle Ages there have been annual fairs in the capital every spring and autumn. Around St. Martin, around November 11th, the people of Bern usually stocked up on everything they needed for the winter. Interestingly, onions played a minor role in this for a long time. This may be due to the fact that every Tuesday in the “Zibelegässli”, between “Zytglogge” and “Brunngass”, kilos of the tear-inducing vitamin bombs were sold anyway.

The leek family did not play a more prominent role until 1850. This was due to the market vendors from Mont Vully. They brought their onions and other goods to Bern the evening before the Martini mass, which took place on Tuesday. The sale of their groceries, such as nuts, chestnuts, black salsify or onions, began during the night. The onion, in particular, has been staged more and more artfully over the years. In 1892 a train with 13 wagons full of onions left Murten station for Bern. This was the moment when people began to speak of a “Zibelemärit”.

The “Gstungg” at this colorful market soon became so big that in 1927 the authorities felt compelled to declare one-way traffic for pedestrians between the arbors. But even this measure did not help, the crowd remained. In the meantime, the “Zibelemärit” was a firmly established market in the capital. And although most people have long since done their errands in modern department stores, the “Bärner Zibelemärit” with all its showman’s booths, the sweets and the exuberance remained.

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The almonds get their crispy-sweet coating in the copper kettle.

The almonds get their crispy-sweet coating in the copper kettle.

Stay optimistic, stand operator Hans Born.

Stay optimistic, stand operator Hans Born.

Almost like old times

At the beginning of the Ziebelmarit, however, it is quieter and emptier than usual in the alleys. No need to worry for the stall operator Hans Born. After the first few hours he said lightly: “Just wait and see how things go, it’s still early. And there are people, I don’t want to complain, ”explains the 68-year-old Zibelemärit veteran with a broad grin. Again and again people stop and taste one of the crispy-sweet almonds at “Housi’s Mandle- u Rahmtäfeli Stand”. The reporter of this newspaper wants to know whether there is anything that is better than it used to be. “Yes,” says Hans excitedly. He points to his copper kettle in which the almonds do their rounds. “In the past, young people would throw confetti into my kettle,” he shakes his head, “I had to throw away the goods afterwards. Nowadays it’s no longer like that”.

Ruth Jenni sells regional honey together with her father.

Ruth Jenni sells regional honey together with her father.

The estate of Ruth and her father, who is a full-time beekeeper.

The estate of Ruth and her father, who is a full-time beekeeper.

Ruth Jenni, who sells regional honey together with her father, also remains cautiously optimistic. “At the beginning of the Zibelemärit, I was a bit astonished by the few people,” she turns her head and looks in the direction of the Bundeshaus. “It’s a little better now,” explains the young woman, as dusk is just setting in. The mood is good, Jenni continues. Now she is hoping for more numerous onlookers and interested parties.

Artfully tied onion braids on the Zibelemärit.

Artfully tied onion braids on the Zibelemärit.

Less onions

One damper was the failure of the Zibelemärit last year, the first time in more than a hundred years, of course. It is therefore “nice to feel something normal again”, explains a young woman who is looking around at one of the booths full of sweets. But this year, too, there is a setback. The supply of onions is less than usual, because the rainy summer and the hail made many vegetable farmers hard. But let’s be honest, the onion is of secondary importance for many nowadays. First and foremost, it’s about getting together and enjoying the traditional market. Or as Rolf Schminke from Biel sums it up: “Despite the current situation, it’s nice, people enjoy it, that’s the way it should be – a typical folk festival”.

More impressions
Tabea Baumann (left) from Uetendorf enjoys the Zibelemärit with her colleague.

Tabea Baumann (left) from Uetendorf enjoys the Zibelemärit with her colleague.

You can find sweet treats on every corner.

You can find sweet treats on every corner.

The later the morning hour, the more visitors.

The later the morning hour, the more visitors.

There is also something healthy to be found at the Zibelemärit.

There is also something healthy to be found at the Zibelemärit.

Numerous onlookers stroll through Bern's alleys.

Numerous onlookers stroll through Bern’s alleys.

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