The Basler Fasnacht, the largest Carnival in Switzerland, kicked-off their 2013 celebrations today (February 18th) at 4:00am with “Morgenstreich” — 200 hand-painted lanterns with satirical images of local events and personage of the past year were paraded through the streets, but the day did not end there. The afternoon was dominated by a large parade whose route wound through the streets on both sides of the Rhein River. Although the streets were bursting with spectators and participants, there was plenty of opportunities to glimpse the fun, catch some candy, flowers, fruit, and other goodies generously provided by the parade participants while simultaneously being doused in confetti!
If you can get out and enjoy the activities, check out the parade to be held on Wednesday (February 20th) @ 1:30pm/13:30 !
Scroll down to view the “Photo Gallery” and “Video” tabs for a glimpse of the afternoon fun at the Basler Fasnacht 2013 ….
The Carnival in Basel is the largest in Switzerland and that alone sets it apart from “Luzerner Fasnacht“. They are similar in many ways, but it is their differences which make each a unique and delightful experience:
Similarities: (not an “all encompassing” list, it hits the big items)
- Obscenely early morning start time on the first day (Lucerne & Basel )
- Afternoon parades which poke fun at people and events of the past year
- Plenty of food and drinks
- Commerative Pins (Lucerne & Basel )
- Bands of Musicians (Guggenmusik)
The Carnival in Lucerne revolves around the start of Christian season of Lent. The 3 days of festivities begin the week before Lent, on the Thursday before Ash Wednesday, and ends on the Tuesday ( NOTE: There is no official program over the weekend).
The Basel Carnival begins the Monday AFTER Ash Wednesday, following the old days of Lent as decreed by the Church in 600, and continues for 3 consequetive days.
Visitors to the Lucerne carnival, adults and kids alike, are often in costume: Elaborate masks or face paints and/or “general” costumes — think Halloween. You stand-out in the crowd if you are not so bedecked! This is in high contrast to Basel.
In Basel, costumes are worn by the participants of the processions and the musicians. Their full paper mâché head masks (Larve) and costumes fall in line with the “sujet” of their “cliques” which mock events of the past year. In fact, simply having a painted face in Basel, unless you are a child, is not acceptable. On this point, according to the Fasnacht Comité of Basel:
“Unlike other carnival events, painted faces, false noses, jester’s caps, bawdy songs, raucous or drunken behaviour are all frowned upon”
Another interesting part of the Basel costumes and “cliques”, not seen in Lucern, is the distribution of “hand-bills”. These hand-bills ( Zeedel) are composed in the local Basel dialect and explain heir “sujet” — subject.
On Tuesday in Basel, there is no “official program”. It is the day for adults and children to wander the streets in costume. This occurs any time in Luzern although there is a special kids parade on Fat Tuesday (Güdisdienstag) called “Chendermonschter”.
The music in Lucerne is mix of Guggenmusik and modern music blasting from the carnival floats.
The music in Basel is also a mix of Guggenmusik and more but with the added pleasure or “pipers” — groups playing piccolos. It steams for old miltary marches and tattoos and is a pastime enjoyed the year through.
Not surprisingly, each Canton has their own history and traditions and local politics and events. All these things combine to create a very different experience. The most striking is the way each starts their festivities.
In Luzern, the festivities begin with a “cannon-boom” of confetti at 5:00am on Dirty Thursday ( Schmutizer Donnerstag) . Groups of the Guggenmusicians pour out from the darkened streets beating a rhythm on their drums. People in costumes dance and celebrate the beginning of 3 days of craziness,
In Basel, the festivities get an even earlier start at 4:00am! A parade of 200 lanterns painted with events of the past year make their way through the streets accompanied by music. The atmosphere is substantially less … loud, but no less exciting!
The Basler Fasnacht has a long and fascinating history …
The first recording of Basler Fasnacht is from the late 14th Century:
On Ash Wednesday 1376, during a jousting tournament between citizens and knights, 4 noblemen were killed. Later, 12 citizens were beheaded. Emperor Charles the IV placed a ban on the city — it would no longer be protected by the Holy Roman empire. This day became known as Böse Fasnacht — “ the evil Fasnacht” Source: Fasnachts Comité
The only time in it’s 500+ year history when the Basler Fasnacht was not celebrated was during the Second World War.
The Carnival today is a compilation of old and new traditions:
” The roots of the Basel Fasnacht reach back to Celtic and Germanic times and grew from practices relating to ancestor worship, fertility rites, and the driving out of winter. It is also informed by a number of later military traditions such as musters and shows of arms organized by the town’s guilds, as well as medieval jousts and religious feasts during Lent ” Source: Basel Carnival Brochure
The Basel Carnival has evolved over the centuries and today’s festivities are a “20th Century” invention. Nevertheless, the historical roots are still evident and the passion and camaraderie during this 72 hours is palpable!
Sights and sounds of the Basel Carnival on Monday, February 18th, 2013 … Enjoy!