"Funkensonntag" (literally "Bonfire Sunday") is celebrated throughout Liechtenstein on the Sunday after Ash Wednesday by lighting a large bonfire.
The custom can be traced back to the tradition of driving away the winter. An effigy of a witch, known as the "Funkenhexe" ("Bonfire Witch"), is filled with fireworks and placed on top of the bonfire as a symbol of winter. As soon as this effigy explodes, winter is said to be over.
In the past almost every village would light a bonfire on Funkensonntag. Today, however, there is generally only one fire held in each municipality. The celebrations also include a children's firework display.
The wood used to make the bonfire was traditionally gathered by local boys in the nearby forests. This also served to clear away deadwood and, as such, was seen as a contribution to life in the community.
These days most bonfires are officially limited to a maximum height of 20 metres (in the past they were often much taller). Indeed, municipalities would compete to see who could build the highest bonfire. For a time it was also traditional to steal rival municipalities "Bonfire Witches", which were only returned upon payment of a "ransom" (generally beer).
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