– or when a cultural city goes wild!
From March 10–12. 2014, city center of Basel the famous Basel carnival lasts for only three days, but for the other 362 days of the year, the city prepares for it with passionate commitment and boundless creativity. On the Monday after Ash Wednesday, the city wakes to the sound of the “Morgestraich”. When the clock in the tower of St. Martins, Basel’s oldest church, strikes 4 o’clock, all the streetlights in the city center are automatically extinguished. At that point, thousands of piccolos and drums launch into the simple, traditional tune of the “Morgestraich”. The lanterns are the only source of light and come in many shapes and sizes: the giant lanterns with their elaborate depictions of current subjects, the handheld lanterns of the vanguard and the lanterns mounted above the masks.
The three days of the Basel Carnival
There are two main processions, starting at 1.30 pm on Monday and Wednesday. More than 10,000 masked carnival members parade along a set route through the city center displaying their «sujets» or special carnival topics, accompanied by the sound of drums, piccolos and «Gugge» music. They travel by foot, on carnival floats or horse-drawn carriages, carrying lanterns and many other comical accessories. People in the procession throw confetti and distribute oranges, yellow mimosa and many other things to the spectators along the route. Most groups also hand out their own colorful sheets of paper («Zeedel») which make fun of local events and personalities in verse form, written in the unfathomable local Basel dialect. On the Monday and Wednesday evening, over 100 groups of Schnitzelbank singers perform their satirical songs in city center bars and restaurants. Using different melodies and lyrics composed in the local Basel dialect, they poke fun at the «sujets» – well-known events and personalities of the previous year. The individual verses are illustrated with pictures, known as «Helgen», and always culminate with an unexpected amusing or sardonic punch line.
On the second day of Fasnacht, hundreds of children continue the tradition of taking part, individually or in groups, in a lighthearted parade. In the evening, the Guggenmusik bands take over the entire squares at Marktplatz, Barfüsserplatz, and Claraplatz for their concerts, which start at 7.30 pm and attract an enthusiastic audience.
Over 200 lanterns caricaturing numerous – mostly local – topics, («sujets») with cartoons and verses catch the spectator’s eye during the Morgenstreich and the main parades on the two main processions of Monday and Wednesday afternoon. But on Monday evening all the lanterns are transported to Münsterplatz, where they are displayed until Wednesday morning. The lanterns are lit on both evenings and provide an impressive illuminated display under the shadow of the cathedral. At the exhibition of floats and props at the “Kasernenareal” in Kleinbasel, incredible carnival floats and colorful accessories are on display and can be visited from the evening of Monday until Wednesday morning of the Basel Carnival.
The „Gässle” is special for the residents of Basel and visitors too. It simply refers to the custom of wandering through the narrow lanes and alleyways of Basel’s old town, marching to the hypnotic beat of the small and large troupes of piccolo players and drummers, enjoying both new and old carnival compositions, and falling into a sort of reverie for a few hours that is entirely in the spirit of this unique festival.
No Basel Fasnacht without the Fasnacht badge
“Me het e Blaggedde” – we’ve got a badge. As this motto suggests, visitors, as well as locals, are advised to buy a Fasnacht badge and pin it on their lapels. It’s virtually a point of honor, for the net proceeds from the sale of badges all go to the participating groups to help cover their costs. The badges come in copper, silver, and gold. Or you can purchase the more expensive “Bijou”, a smaller, but particularly elegant variant. The badges are sold by street vendors, costumed participants, a number of kiosks and at special sales stands.
Information from Basel Tourismus: More information Fasnachts-Comite