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Unraveling the Connection Between a Tree Branch, Swiss Army Knife, and Schwingen

Chijioke and Uche have recently ventured into the world of Swiss wrestling, also known as Schwingen. Through them, I've become increasingly curious about the rich cultural traditions surrounding this sport.

Yesterday they both participated at the Bündner Kantonal, a traditional Swiss wrestling competition. Having won 4 out of 6 rounds, Uche came home with a Zweig. And both he and Chijioke were gifted Swiss Army knives for participating.

While being thrilled about their success, I was intrigued to learn more about these "gifts," as I understand that a child receiving a knife might appear odd to an outsider.

In this post, I will delve into the significance and history of these symbols and examine how these traditions connect to the historic lives of Swiss people.

The Zweig: A Legacy of Success and Recognition

The tradition of awarding young wrestlers with a Zweig after a successful Schwingen competition dates back many years. The Zweig, a carefully selected branch, symbolizes recognition and respect to young wrestlers who display exceptional skill and determination in the sawdust. The branch is typically cut from a coniferous tree such as a spruce, fir, or pine, and carefully chosen for its shape, size, and quality. It is presented to the young wrestler by the Zweigwart, a respected position held by an individual that is often chosen based on their knowledge of trees and the ability to select the perfect Zweig for each occasion.

The Zweig represents the young wrestler's hard work, dedication, and success in the competition. It's a powerful symbol of recognition and respect, and it's deeply rooted in Swiss culture and tradition. Once received, it is often displayed prominently in the young wrestler's home as a reminder of their achievement and as a symbol of their commitment to the sport of Schwingen.

The Swiss Knife: A Multifunctional Tool Embedded in Swiss Culture

In addition to the Zweig, both Chijioke and Uche received a Swiss knife as a prize, which further intrigued me.

Swiss knives, commonly known as Swiss Army knives, include various blades and tools, such as a large blade, a small blade, a can opener, a bottle opener, a screwdriver, a saw, scissors, and many others, depending on the model.

To outsiders, the idea of gifting a Swiss knife to a child might seem controversial. However, within the context of Swiss culture and the historical background of the sport of Schwingen, the Swiss knife is viewed as an appropriate and meaningful reward for young wrestlers who demonstrate skill, dedication, and discipline.

The Connection Between Schwingen, Swiss Knives, and Swiss Farming Culture

Schwingen is deeply connected to Swiss farming and agriculture, as farmers frequently engaged in the sport during their leisure time. For farmers, the Swiss knife serves not only as a practical tool for tasks like pruning plants and repairing farm equipment but also, due to its lightweight design, as an indispensable companion for farmers on the move. It is considered normal to carry around a Swiss Army Knife in one's pocket, even at a young age.

Given that many Schwinger still come from farming backgrounds, awarding Swiss knives to young wrestlers not only acknowledges their hard work and dedication but also equips these young athletes with a versatile tool that can be useful in various aspects of their lives. Thus, the Swiss knife is not perceived as a weapon.

Common Gifts and Rewards for Young Schwinger

Aside from the Swiss knife or the Zweig, young Schwinger might receive various gifts and rewards that honor their achievements in the sport. Some common gifts include:

  1. Local or regional products: Gifts that represent the local culture, such as regional food items, handicrafts, or other traditional products.

  2. Clothing or accessories: Special garments or accessories, such as shirts or caps, featuring the event's logo or other symbolic designs.

  3. Bells: Decorated cow- or goat bells, often attached to a strap or ribbon, symbolize success and have cultural significance in Switzerland, as they are traditionally used by farmers to keep track of their livestock in the mountains.

The specific gifts may vary depending on the region, competition, and local customs. However, the common theme among these gifts is to recognize and celebrate the hard work, dedication, and achievements of the young Schwinger.

The tradition of awarding such gifts to young wrestlers highlights the fascinating connection between Schwingen and Swiss culture. As a mother, I'm delighted to see my boys immerse themselves in this world and gain an appreciation for the rich traditions that have shaped the sport. And who knows what other rewards they will bring home in the future!

Last but not least

I decided always to end my blog posts with an Igbo proverb or quote and a song (not necessarily Igbo) that speaks to my heart. Feel free to share your favorite proverbs or a song you are currently listening to!

Igbo quote of the week: "Every nerve and every muscle stood out on their arms, on their backs and their thighs, and one almost heard them stretching to breaking point. In the end, Okonkwo threw the Cat." (Chapter 1, "Things Fall Apart" by Chinua Achebe)

My song this week: En 'Uwa by Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe


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