If you have been in Zurich for a while you will be aware of the «Knabenschiessen» or boy’s shooting. If you are new to the city, don’t worry. It’s not some terrible man hunt but a tradition dating back over 700 years. And it is served with a half day holiday…
In 14th century Zurich, boys between the ages of 15 and 16 were conscripted and were trained with a weapon. As well as swords and other stabbing and slashing weapons, the young people were also trained in the use of the crossbow. In the 16th century this was replaced by the powder rifle, which paved the way for today's custom.
Military drills used to last several weeks with the drills culminating in the so called «Knaben Schiesset» where the best shot would win a «Thaler», an old coin which provides the name for the modern dollar. Afterwards the young people would march through the city to the sound of drums and armed with rifles. A bit like Street Parade but with weapons.
After the middle ages these paramilitary drills were abolished and the «Knaben Schiesset» vanished.
Since 1899 the modern boys shooting competition has been organised but the Shooting Association of the City of Zurich in the Albisgütli under the motto «Boys' Shooting - a Living Tradition» Since then, on the 700th birthday of the Swiss Confederation girls were allowed to shoot for the first time with several female winners since then.
Nowadays two things dominate the tradition. The half day holiday and the «Chilbi» (which is the Swiss for funfair if you are British and Carnival for those on the west side of the pond,) that occupies the road up to Albisgüetli. This year, due to Corona, the shooting part will not be taking place but the holiday and an, albeit smaller version of the «Chilbi» will still go ahead.
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