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Tips and Advise for visiting Switzerland by Road to Travel Inc.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Celebrating the Swiss carnival Fasnacht

It is carnival time in Switzerland from February to March with more than 200 of them celebrated across the country.  The Swiss carnival, Fasnacht, differs from town to town but all of them are noisy, colourful and fun events to see.

Celebrated since the 14th century from Monday to Thursday following Ash Wednesday, Fasnacht in Basel is the largest Swiss carnival. Up to 20,000 dressed up members of local cliques participate in the only Protestant carnival in the world attracting large crowds of spectators. 

Carnival in Basel
The festivities start as the clock strike four in the morning with flute players and drummers in masks costumes march through the old centre. The Cliquen, groups of local carnival participants, carry nine feet high lanterns, as the street lights are switched off for the event.

Costumed parades with floats are organized for Monday and Wednesday afternoon. On Tuesday evening, masked musicians (Guggenmusigen) spill out on the streets trying to outplay each other, the louder and more out of tune the better. Dressed up characters walk from one bar to another reading out loud Schnitzelbank, short satirical verses in Swiss German criticizing and ridiculing politicians, the church and celebrities.

Lucerne Fasnacht
One of the main events during Fasnacht celebrations are fire ceremonies. Oversized brooms (Chienbäse), wooden sculptures (Chluri) or straw figures (Böögg) are burnt to symbolise the end of winter. In Sissach, a town near Basel, a wooden figure depicting a public figure is burnt to the crowd’s cheering. The Böögg (the boogie man) is set on fire in Winterthur on the last day of the carnival. 

Carnival in Lucerne

Lucerne’s Fasnacht lasts for six days and is as noisy and colourful as it the famous carnival in Basel. Here, the carnival’s symbols are Fritschi, an elderly man with his wife known as Fritschene, and their child, Fritschikind. The Lucerne carnival is more chaotic and merry than the one in Basel as masked characters and musicians mingle with the crowds rather than march orderly along the streets.

Photos via Flickr by:  Noel Reynolds, Benjamin Chaulet, Roger Levy.

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