What a Pumpkin Festival Looks Like This Side of the Pond
Typical commercial Holidays
It seems every year Christmas Decorations go up earlier in the stores. This year I noticed they were setting things up the last week of October. You must understand that in Switzerland neither Halloween nor Thanksgiving takes on a big role in commercial holiday spending. Of course, some American ideas have snuck their way into stores for those who like to celebrate the dress-up party for Halloween, but any thought of tradition or trick-or-treat presumption is a non-sequitur.
How we celebrate
That is to say, we do have Erntedank which is our own Thanksgiving for the Fall harvest celebrated in the Church with a bountiful offering as a centerpiece, usually given to the pastors family. This occurs in October.
We also have a traditional Rabelichtli Umzug (Turnip Parade). Every year in November, school children and parents hollow out turnips (large ones) and cut designs on the outside, thread string and beads between the lid and base for carrying. At nightfall on the designated day in the village, all children gather at a local spot, light their turnips with tea-light candles and then proceed to march around the village, usually singing traditional children’s songs (including the Rabelichtli song). For this special night, they turn off the street lights and an official is sent ahead to direct traffic to keep the streets safe for any crossings.
What is this about a Swiss Pumpkin Festival?
In the past few years, pumpkin carving has become a thing, and one neighboring village has made it into a tradition, a small festival if you will. The Rudolfingen Kurbisfest (Pumpkin festival) is celebrated over two nights with the whole village participating. They have carved pumpkins and gourds of every shape and size, and the food, OH THE FOOD! But let me first tell you about the pumpkins. Young and old can carve and display their work. No theme is set, though they group similar carvings together. This year they even had pumpkin animatronics (sort of). The artistry is phenomenal and creative. It is no wonder hundreds of people flock to this little village. There is a parking fee (they efficiently direct traffic as well!) or you can take local transportation- a bus drops you off right at the edge of the village.
It is an amazing thing to walk through a village in the dark of night, lit only by jack-o-lanterns, with crowds of people and 1) To not bump into or crash into anyone, trip or fall, and 2) to feel utterly safe. This can be because it is a small village, out and away from big city life and local people know about it. Probably the worst thing is that folks don’t clean up after themselves or leave their beer bottles or cups / papers anywhere except in the designated receptacles (which are in abundance).
Pumpkin dishes galore!
Okay, now I get to tell you about the food. If you ever wanted to try any and every variety of pumpkin delicacy, this would be the place to go. You can come on an empty stomach and leave well satisfied. We ate these yummy foods : Pumpkin tarts with a cup of hot punch, pumpkin bruschetta (so wonderful, but I would have loved if it was served hot, not cold). Then we had Pumpkin Bratwurst and roasted garlic bread (not everything has pumpkin, just almost everything). For dessert, we ate Pumpkin Berliners and Coffee with pumpkin/Kirsch schnapps. We wanted to try the pumpkin fries but they ran out before we got back around to the stall.
They also had Risotto, Raclette, Pumpkin Burgers, Crepes, and of course a wonderful pumpkin soup (I know, I had this a previous year). You can stand around or find a small place to sit to eat. There are also barns-turned-into-Beiz for the night (a little restaurant serving fresh, local foods). There you can go inside to warm up and order a drink or something to eat.
How it came about: Swiss Ingenuity
Looking back, the Rudolfingen Kurbisfest (pumpkin festival) began in 1999 to raise income to support the local village grocery (VOLG). LANDI, the agricultural cooperative subsidizes the local grocery store only in part. The other costs must be covered through sales (local buying) and the occasional fundraising initiative from the village store association. Ten percent of the money made through the Kurbisfestival goes back to cover the running costs of their grocery store.
If you are ever in the region in early November (next year on the 3rd and 4th), check it out. It is a lovely taste of local Swiss culture.
En Guete! Sandra Lynn Kern
P.S.- If you’re interested in a translation of the pumpkin soup recipe, let me know. Write a comment below. I assure you, it is delicious, though substitutions will have to be made for the local wine.