• Basel Carnival

Basel Carnival – the unique One !

Die biggest Carnival of Switzerland

For many people, carnival is the absolute highlight of the year; for three whole days, the town is turned upside down. In the protestant city of Basel, the carnival days in February or March mark the end of the fasting season.

It all begins on Monday morning at four o’clock: All lights are turned off, only the big lanterns of the carnival groups illuminate the dark. The city is shaking with the sound of drums and pipes, thousands of spectators stay up late, dozens of cellars in the old city centre are turned into cosy bars. In 2010, carnival is on 22nd to 24th February.

Pipes and drums

For three days, the city abandons itself to wild revelry – accompanied by the sound of thousands of piccolos and drums. The so called cliques march through the streets of Basel. Their masks and costumes satirically express a theme that was hotly debated in Basel the year before. It is a time of irony and humour, many renowned artists and writers contribute to the images and characters acted out. In addition to the cliques, so-called ‘Guggemusiken’ (boisterous brass bands) parade the streets. It seems that Basel might burst at its seams during these three days.

«Schnitzelbängg», flour soup and onion pie

Carnival may be loud, wild and satirical – as in the poems on lanterns and in the comical songs called Schnitzelbänke – but it does have a strict and melancoly side to it. There’s an attractive ambivalence to the whole affair: a longing for home and a joy of life, the freedom to do whatever one wants and the sadness of the surviving mercenaries coming home from a battle (the origin of the cliques). But whatever your feelings, you should enjoy the seasonal specialties: „Fastenwähen“, a kind of pretzel with cumin, the tender and sweet „Fasnachtskiechli“, flour soup and onion pie.

The origins

Carnival marks the end of the protestant fasting season. It takes place six weeks before easter, a week after carnival in most catholic regions. This is due to a reform of the papal calendar in the 16th century, which protestant Basel duly ignored. Other than that, all religious holidays in Basel are on the same date as everywhere else!

Die Basler Fasnacht ist die grösste Fasnacht der Schweiz. Sie beginnt am Montag nach Achermittwoch um 4:00 Uhr mit dem "Morgestraich". Sie dauert exakt 72 Stunden und endet am Donnerstagmorgen um 4:00 Uhr mit dem Endstraich. In dieser Zeit wird die Basler Innenstadt von den Fasnächtlern beherrscht, die in ihren Cliquen durch die Strassen, Kneipen und Geschäfte ziehen. Von Aktiven wird die Basler Fasnacht auch als «die drey scheenschte Dääg» (die drei schönsten Tage) bezeichnet.

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