Masks, lanterns and music are at the ready for the three mystical nights of Basel Fasnacht from 10 to 13 March. People begin filling the streets for the annual festival well before dawn at 4.00am on Monday with the party continuing until 4.00am on Thursday.
Switzerland’s largest carnival, has origins dating back to the Middle Ages with close links to local events and traditions. While offering a unique experience with its drums, pipes and outlandish masks, the festival’s overriding feature is always a dark sense of humour and harsh criticism of the authorities. Fasnacht begins with the Morgenstreich (morning prank) on Monday 10 March, when the city light are turned off and the lanterns, caricaturing local figures, are paraded around town. They are also featured in the masked processions on Monday and Wednesday afternoons. Fasnacht is also famed for its traditional Gugge, or brass bands. Musicians march from 19.30 to 23.00 on Tuesday around the Marktplatz, Barfüsserplatz and Claraplatz, encouraging spectators to tag along.
“Much is special about Basler Fasnacht. There is the piccolo and drums competition where young musicians show off what they can do and compete to become the piccolo or drum “king” or “queen”. There is also a lantern exhibition which is the world’s largest temporary open-air art exhibition,” explained Annicken Gravino of the Fasnacht Committee.
The Fasnacht theme this year, “Keep clean” is portrayed by a “Waggis”, a costumed figure who points at the rubbish and dirt in the streets. Waggis badges (Blagettes) are available from street vendors, carnival participants and kiosks around town. For further information: www. fasnachts-comite.ch