Historical research indicates that the Zibelemärit originated in the 1850s with marmettes, farmer's wives from around Murten, coming to Berne at around St. Martin's Day to sell their produce; however, a persistent local legend holds that the Zibelemärit is a much older festivity. According to this legend, the Bernese awarded the people from the nearby city of Fribourg the right to sell onions in the city in reward for their aid after a fire destroyed much of Berne in 1405.
As the name indicates, it is mainly onions that are sold on the Zibelemärit. Bernese farmers, who are proud of their decorative onion tresses and onion wreaths, also sell other onion products on the market, including Zwiebelkuchen (onion pie), onion soup and onion sausages. Decorative chains of sugar onions are also popular with children.
The Zibelemärit opens very early in the day, at around 03:00 to 04:00. Later in the morning, the narrow alleys are usually packed tight with people, which is what the Bernese call the Gstungg. A general confetti battle in which mostly children participate ensues at four o'clock in the afternoon, officially ending the market.
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