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
18 to 20th, 2002
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 (February 18this 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, here 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, wonderful entertaining flash animation:
Gives you a great preview of some of the sites and sounds of the
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)
15, 16, 17 and 18, February 2002
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.
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
hunters) when women wear masks and "tell the truth about men."
There is an entry fee of 10 CHF for the events on Sunday afternoon.
The calendar for this event and more information
are available on the website: http://www.brandonspayerne.ch
More Information: Payerne Tourist Office: 026.660.661
Payerne Website: www.payerne.ch
2 and 3, 2002
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.
Grandson Tourist Office: 024 445 29 26
Last Updated: February, 2002