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Thread: The Swiss Rääbeliechtli

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    The Swiss Rääbeliechtli

    On certain late autumn nights, children's processions with lanterns are common in Alemannic Switzerland. Lanterns (called Rääbeliechtli, or Rääbeliechtli Umzug - "turnip light parade") are hand-carved from root vegetables, generally turnips, by removing the interior and putting a candle inside. The Rääbeliechtli is carved with designs such as the traditional sun, moon and stars. The lantern is then suspended by three chains. The children walk through the streets of their town with the lanterns and sing traditional songs. The parade itself is a slightly solemn affair with the children carry their glowing Rääben marchingslowly along a rather short previously defined route. The parade ends at a bonfire site in the nearby woods where the teachers lead the school children inseveral traditional songs, one of them being the “official” Rääbeliechtli folksong: “Ich geh mit meiner Laterne.“

    The Rääbeliechtli Umzug is an old custom which originates with thanksgiving traditions at the end of harvest in November, most likely combining aspects of Martin’s Day celebrations with the general desire to gather together and create warmthand light to counter the shortening days and dropping temperatures. This tradition came out of a legend dating back to the mid nineteenth century, telling how the farmers' wives living in the hills around the town would make lanterns out of turnips, to light the way home from church at night during the middle of winter. The custom is very similar to the tradition of carving turnip lanterns for halloween in Ireland, Scotland, the Isle of Man (where they call halloween Hop-tu-Naa, and have traditional songs), and parts of England and Wales. There the celebration is on the 31st October to celebrate the eve of the Celtic New Year.

    Interestingly, the Rääbe has no culinary use. Rääben that are not carved into lanterns wind up aslivestock feed or are used for sugar production.

    How do I carve a Rääbeliechtli?

    You need: A Rääbe, a paring knife, and a mellon baller. As it has no culinary use, Rääben are generally not found in Supermarkets. (If you arelucky, you might find one at Migros or Coop, but if this is your definition of lucky...). They are usually supplied by schools and kindergartens to the children.

    Step 1: Cut off the top 2 cm making a flat cut all the way through. Save the top for later use as a lid for your lantern.

    Step 2: Hollow out the Rääbe with the mellon baller leaving a 5 – 10 mm thick outer shell. Work carefully taking care not to make holes in the Rääbe or to puncture it.

    Step 3: Carve shapes into the Rääbe shell, the goal being to have a Rääbe with pretty glowing images. This is achieved by carefully peeling off the outer purple skin with your paring knife. Draw the shapes onto the Rääbe with a pen (it is common to use cookie cutters as stencils). Slide the blade under the skin and to peel off the skin, again without puncturing the shell. The candle light will glowthrough these skinless parts. (This is a great opportunity to show off your parenting carving skills). Note that this is different than carving a Halloween jack-o-lantern in that you are peeling off the skin without making holes.

    Step 4: Make 3 holes for the string about 1-1.5 cm below the top lip of the Rääbe. Thread 3 long bits of string through the holes tying them together at the top for your child to hold. Pro Tip: Make three holes in the lid and thread the strings through the lid. The lid should hang about 1cm above the Rääbe, allowing enough air for the candle to burn. You are done!!! Place a lit tea light inside, sit back, and admire your great work. Another Pro Tip: Attach the tea light to the Rääbe with a piece of chewing gum.

    Step 5: Rääbeliechtli Storage: It is best to store the Rääbeliechtli in a bowl or bucket of water as they tend to dry out extremely quickly.
    The sources:

    Some photos:

    Before and in the process of carving:

    As can be seen, they're similar to Hallowwen pumpkins. Some of the children write their names on the carvet turnips:

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    The High-German word for 'Rääbe' appears to be 'Rübe' .

    Here in the north of Germay we know the 'Steckrübe'
    Engl. "Rutabaga" :
    is a root vegetable that originated as a cross between the cabbage and the turnip.
    The roots are prepared for human consumption in a variety of ways,
    and the leaves can be eaten as a leaf vegetable.
    The roots and tops are also used as winter feed for livestock,
    when they may be fed directly,
    or by allowing the animals to forage the plants in the field.
    Various European countries have a tradition of carving them into lanterns at halloween.

    In my childhood we had no Rüben on the table;
    my passed-away partner introduced me to 'Steckrübenmuus' ,
    which is sometimes sold as pre-manufactured meal here and there in a plastic tube
    to be warmed up; consisting mainly of potatoes and carrots.
    The carrots give it it's taste; it might be meat inside, but only "traces" of meat.
    Probably one is able to purchase Steckrübenmuus at a butcher's shop.

    In my childhood we had paper-lanterns, and I knew these Rutabaga
    only as animal food.
    Rüben (Roots?) are not sold in grocery stores here;
    one would need to purchase these directly from a farmer.

    Rübe is a derogatory word for 'head' in German language, similar as 'pear' .
    Mk 10:18 What do you call me a good master, no-one is good .

    Gylfaginning 1.39 But on wine alone Odin in arms renowned Forever lives.

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