Marvelous Carnivals: Basel and Beyond
Basel Fasnacht Terminology
A fasnacht association
The Fasnacht procession
The Basel Lenten carnival, from the German"Fastnacht"
but spelled without the first "t."
A type of strident brass-band music which originated in Basel
around the turn of the century
The transparent lanterns painted by artists and laymen with
representations of the clique's theme
Masks in the special Fasnacht dialect
Satirical verses recited on the Monday and Wednesday evenings
Please note: This archival article describes events
in 2001 - Check with local tourism offices for an up to date schedule!
5 to March 7, 2001
The Fasnacht in Basel is one of Switzerland's most
famous and impressive traditional events, but it actually is not
in the traditional sense a "carnival." It is not held
on Mardi Gras, but rather takes place on the Monday before Ash Wednesday
and traditionally had an air of Protestant defiance since many surrounding
Catholic areas were just beginning a period of fasting (Lent).
Fasnacht is not a party for the young alone, but
involves the participation of just about everyone in the city. The
highlight is the Morgenstreich (morning prank). Beginning at around
2:30 a.m. on Monday morning (March 5 this year) people begin moving
towards the center of the action, the streets of the old town. At
precisely 4 a.m. the lights go out throughout the entire city. A
spectacular procession of lanterns begins. This moment is said to
be emotional and breathtaking.
Fasnacht societies (known as cliques) bring
out highly inventive lanterns which are sometimes several meters
high (They don't call Basel Switzerland's most creative city for
nothing!). The lanterns are born through the street, accompanied
by Guggenmusik until the sun comes up at around 6 a.m. People then
go home for a short nap until the next major event, which is the
Cortege that begins on Monday at 1:30. At the end of the day the
lanterns are deposited at the Muensterplatz (Cathedral Square).
How to attend: The most convenient way to
arrive in town is to take the train in and to reserve a hotel room
for Sunday and Monday nights and to spend the two days in town.
The Swiss Rail system will also run special late night trains into
Basel (check with the Swiss Rail for times) for those who would
like to go out just for the evening, arriving at around 2 a.m. and
departing again the next morning. For those driving in, there are
numerous Park and Drive locations around town, but it is important
to get there early (around 2 a.m.) because public transport runs
only until 3:15 a.m. At that point the entire town begins to fall
quiet in preparation for the Morgenstreich procession.
More on Fasnacht
A website not to miss!
The Fasnacht Committee Website, a flash animation: Gives you a great
preview of some of the sites and sounds of the event!
More basic information in German: www.fasnacht.ch
Basel tourist office: 061.268.6868
Celebrations Closer to Geneva
within one to two hour's drive)
2001 / 5 Mars 2001
The largest carnival of its kind in French-speaking
Switzerland, this popular event has its roots in ancient times.
The highlight of the four day nonstop four-day program is the "Super
Cortege Carnavalesque," a procession of 30 elaborately costumed
floats and guggenmusik bands which begins at precisely 14:31 on
Sunday afternoon, March 4.
The party continues in the streets of Payerne throughout the afternoon
and evening. On Monday, the town is turned over to an early feminist
tradition, the Nuit des Chineuses (Night of the teasers) when women
wear masks and "tell the truth about men." There is an
entry fee of 10 CHF for the events on Sunday afternoon.
More Information: Payerne Tourist Office: 026.660.661
Payerne Website: www.payerne.ch
3 and 4, 2001
The Grandson event is one of the most popular on
the Lake Geneva Region's attractive carnival calendar. A wonderful
weekend of music and merrymaking. The highlight of this colorful
winter's end celebration is the burning of Le Bonhomme Hiver, a
large straw man, who is suspended from the walls of the chateau
and set alight! Hence the name of the festival - Les Brandons -
which comes from the German word to burn.
The event starts at 15:00 on Saturday with games
and a treasure hunt for the children. In the evening there is a
competition for masks and costumes, and then the participants are
given lanterns to chase "good man winter" from the town.
The procession of lanterns, born by costumed musical groups begins
in the evening and ends with the torching of Le Bonhomme Hiver on
the castle walls.
More information: Grandson Tourist Office: 024.445.2926, Website:
February 8 to February 28
Nice celebrates Carnival all month long, beginning
February 8. The highlight is the famous Charivari festival from
the 23 to the 27th of February. Musicians, clowns, and professional
groups mix with the crowds in the streets in a wild party that culminates
on Mardi Gras, February 27 with the "Grande Parade." More
information can be found on the internet at: http://www.nice-coteazur.org/americain/index.html
or by contacting the tourist office in Nice.
Last Updated: February 11, 2001