When Scuol is All Fired Up – Hom Strom

Scuol is well-known for its mineral water. More than twenty mineral springs bubble up from the ground in the vicinity of the Lower Engadin's chief town. The sparkling water is used to supply the local mineral bath facility as well as various village fountains. However, once a year, Scuol is not all about water, but about another element: fire.

On the first Saturday in February, the schoolchildren of Scuol gather together and wrap an eight-metre-long pole with rye straw until they have a "Hom Strom", a straw man, in front of them. This straw man is then erected on a meadow just outside the village. In the evening, the population gathers around this figure, which is now set on fire. All around, participants are waving fireballs, so-called "bombas", while singing the traditional "Hom Strom" Song.

The origins of this so-called fire tradition are obscure. Sometimes the Hom Strom is associated with the Böögg burnt during the Sechseläuten festival in Zurich. Some even see a connection with the Burning Man which is set on fire during the music festival in Nevada with the same name. However, more likely is a connection to the catholic Candlemas feast held at the beginning of February. By then, sunlight once again shines on the village square of Scuol, which had previously remained in the wintry shadow of a distinctive mountain, the Piz San Jon, for a long time.

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