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Switzerland:  Basel Fasnacht
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Switzerland: Basel Fasnacht

Basel Fasnacht

A terrific carnival which starts in complete darkness at 4am and continues for three days of organised music and satire, parades and performances.

Basel the nicest city in Switzerland
Baselbiet - countryside and towns

Basel Fasnacht

Fasnacht is a huge carnival primarily celebrating the end of winter and run-up to Lent. It begins at 4 am on the first Monday after Ash Wednesday with Morgestraich. Bands of musicians (called Cliques), march through the city and break up into small groups to roam the medieval streets of the old city. Many thousands of costumed musicians take part. The festival has been going on for hundreds of years, though the cliques were only formed in the 19th century.

Basel Fasnacht
Fasnacht 2008
Basel Fasnacht
Basel Fasnacht
Basel Fasnacht
Basel Fasnacht
Basel Fasnacht

Over the course of three days there are parades (called cortèges) of decorated floats with masked and costumed "Waggis" who traditionally throw confetti, sweets, flowers and oranges into the crowd and on Tuesday afternoon there is Children's Fasnacht.

Basel Fasnacht

Guggenmusik bands (brass bands) parade as well, though not on Morgestraich, and there are also Guggenmusik concerts and Schnitzelbank singers - singers of satirical verses - perform in bars and restaurants in the evenings.

Basel Fasnacht

Video: Morgestraich

 

At 4am on Morgestraich all the lights in the city are switched off and in complete darkness the bands of the various Cliques march to pipe and drum music parading enormous illuminated lanterns. Clique members also have a small lantern on their heads!

The large lanterns are inscribed with verse and cartoons and over time these became more satirical, tackling political, religious and social subjects.1 We very often couldn't understand the subjects as a lot is in Schweizerdeutsch which we find incomprehensible! Participants all wear costumes and masks or complete cartoon heads.

Basel Fasnacht
Basel Fasnacht
Basel Fasnacht
Basel Fasnacht

Video: Morgestraich

 

Confetti is thrown by the ton! The streets are covered with it by the end of Fasnacht. Principally it's thrown by the participants, and especially at anyone who isn't wearing a Carnival badge. These are sold in copper, silver or gold and the proceeds go to support Fasnacht.

Basel Fasnacht
Basel Fasnacht
In 1991 I was not wearing a Carnival badge!
Basel Fasnacht
Basel Fasnacht
2011
Basel Fasnacht
Basel Fasnacht
Basel Fasnacht
Basel Fasnacht
Basel Fasnacht
1991
Basel Fasnacht
2011
Basel Fasnacht

Video: Fasnacht parade
Basel Fasnacht
1991
Basel Fasnacht
Basel Fasnacht
Basel Fasnacht
Basel Fasnacht
Basel Fasnacht
2011
Basel Fasnacht
Basel Fasnacht
2011
Basel Fasnacht
2011
Basel Fasnacht
Basel Fasnacht
Sweets, oranges and flowers are traditionally thrown into the crowds, as well as confetti.
Basel Fasnacht
Basel Fasnacht
School Parade

 

We first went in 1991 and thoroughly enjoyed Morgestraich, especially when small groups of musicians wandered off on their own through the medieval streets of the city - very atmospheric. In more recent years it has become so popular that the crowds are enormous. There is a lot more drinking, people staying up all night, and we found it a lot less enjoyable so stopped going.

 

Basel Fasnacht
School Parade

 

A newish event is the School Parade which takes place before Fasnacht proper. In 2020 we happened to be in the city on Thursday 20th February when the school children, supported by some of the cliques, adults and musicians, all in costume, paraded through the streets. It is only held every five years since its inauguration in 2010.

As it turned out, this was one of the few Fasnacht events to take place in 2020, as shortly afterwards Fasnacht was cancelled due to Covid-19.

 


Video: Fasnacht in the old town
Basel Fasnacht
Basel Fasnacht
2011
Basel Fasnacht
2011
Basel Fasnacht

2011
The subject of this lantern, 21.12.20102, refers to apocalyptic events that were predicted to happen on this date which is the end of a baktun, a cycle in the Mayan Long Count calendar.

Basel Fasnacht
I got a little too close in 2013 and ended up with a jacket full of confetti!
Basel Fasnacht
Basel Fasnacht
Basel Fasnacht
Basel Fasnacht
Inside restaurant Schnabel during Fasnacht, 2013.
Many bars and restaurants stay open day and night over Fasnacht. Schnabel is the "home" restaurant of several of the Cliques.

 

Basel Fasnacht
Basel Fasnacht
Basel Fasnacht
Basel Fasnacht

Basel Fasnacht
Basel Fasnacht
Basel Fasnacht
Basel Fasnacht
Basel Fasnacht
Basel Fasnacht
Basel Fasnacht
Basel Fasnacht
Basel Fasnacht

 

Basel Fasnacht
Basel Fasnacht

 

Basel Fasnacht
Basel Fasnacht
Basel Fasnacht
Basel Fasnacht
Basel Fasnacht
Basel Fasnacht

 

References

  1. History of Fasnacht