Some 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 of fasnacht

Switzerland's Marvelous Carnivals: Basel and Beyond

Please note:
This archival article describes events in 2001 - Check with local tourism offices for an up to date schedule!

Basler Fasnacht
March 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:

Basel tourist office: 061.268.6868

Carnival Celebrations Closer to Geneva
(All within one to two hour's drive)

Carnival Payerne
2 Mars 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:

Carnival Grandson-Les Brandons
March 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:

Carnival in France
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:
or by contacting the tourist office in Nice.

Last Updated: February 11, 2001