The Sursee Gansabhauet takes place on Martin’s Day, November 11th, every year in front of the town hall in Sursee, canton of Lucerne, Switzerland.
During this ceremony, a blindfolded thug, wearing a sun mask and a red cloak, tries to behead a dead goose hanging on a wire rope with a saber blow.
The traditional custom begins at 3:00 p.m. with a small procession through the Altstadtgasse to the square in front of the town hall, where the goose is hung up.
The “thugs” have to register. Women and men of all ages can act as “thugs”. Usually, there are between 30 and 50 people, mostly young boys. The age of the participants is between 20 and 30 years.
At 3.15 p.m. the first ‘thug’ can try his luck. The next ones are waiting in the town hall where they are blindfolded after drinking an obligatory glass of red wine.
Then they put on a black pointed cap, a red coat and the sun mask. The ‘thug’ is then ccompanied by a drummer and a timpanist.
Once the ‘thug’ locates the Martin’s Goose hanging by the neck, he has one swing available to sever the head from the body with a blunt dragoon saber.
The first hitter rarely succeeds in this. It usually takes around five attempts. A total of two geese are available. This year, the goose was decapitated after 13 attemps. Here’s the video of the ‘winner thug’:
The ‘thug’ who manages to cut the neck’s goose gets to keep it. He is also publicly unmasked. The goose is then cooked in a special way.
It is not known how old is this weird tradition In Sursee. According to a tower inscription from 1858, it disappeared around 1820 but was revived in 1863. Until the early 1870s, the custom was carried out very simply and without a stage right on the square in front of the town hall. The ‘thugs’ were blindfolded and only had to put a black pointed cap. The gold sun mask and red cloak were introduced around 1880.
Prepare now! Stock up on Iodine tablets for the next nuclear disaster…
The Gansabhauet used to be a rural custom that was also widespread elsewhere in Europe and was always carried out on Martin’s Day.
Probably a tradition being related to farming taxes…