Two weeks of foolish hustle and bustle: Switzerland is in carnival fever

Published: Sunday, Feb 4th 2024, 13:50

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From next Thursday, carnival fever will grip large parts of Switzerland for a few days. That's when the big bang in Lucerne and in numerous smaller and larger Swiss communities with a Catholic influence heralds the start of the carnival season. The reformed cantons of Bern and Basel follow in quick succession.

In Central Switzerland, Eastern Switzerland, Aargau, Solothurn, Fribourg, Valais and Ticino, carnival traditionally starts with a big bang in the early morning of Dirty Thursday. In Lucerne, the Fritschi day watch starts at 5 a.m. sharp with thousands of people in costume and numerous Guggenmusik bands.

In the afternoon, the first of two big parades, the Fritschi parade, is on the program. In the days that follow, parades, masked balls, Schnitzelbänke and Kafi-Schnaps are the order of the day throughout Central Switzerland. On Güdismonday, the Lucerne carnival then enters its second round with the Wey day watch at 6 am. The carnival week reaches its final climax with the monster parade of Guggenmusigen on Tuesday evening.

Federal election in St. Gallen

It's a similar story in Eastern Switzerland. In St. Gallen, the carnival celebrations reach their climax at the weekend: on Saturday, a person who has rendered outstanding services to the city is made an honorary citizen of the canton. And Schnitzelbänkler dancers perform in the pubs.

Carnival parades, masked balls and Guggenmusik concerts take place in numerous communities in Eastern Switzerland. In parts of Eastern Switzerland, there is still the Beizenfasnacht, a carnival with decorated pubs and bars that lasts around five weeks.

In Baden AG, too, the "Füdlibürger" is put on trial on Dirty Thursday and his figure is burned at the stake. The parade on Sunday afternoon in Würenlingen AG is considered the largest in the canton. Around 15,000 spectators are expected. Because there are no city gates or overhead bus lines in the village, the carnival floats are higher than in most other places.

Solothurn, known as Honolulu during the carnival season, has the motto "vo döt här" this year. The start of the carnival here is called Chesslete and a cannon shot at 2.31 pm marks the start of the parade on Sunday afternoon. In many other municipalities from Aedermannsdorf to Zuchwil, parades, masked balls, Guggen concerts, Böög burnings and other customs are on the program.

Lots of noise in Ticino

Ticino's carnival stronghold is the capital city of Bellinzona. The carnival here is called "Rabadan", which means "noise" in the Piedmontese dialect. The carnival is led by a "Re" - a king. This king receives the (symbolic) key to the city gates from the mayor on Dirty Thursday. After that, the jesters call the shots for five days.

After the children's parade on Friday, Guggenmusik bands from Ticino and German-speaking Switzerland perform concerts until late into the night on Saturday. The highlight of Rabadan is the big parade on Sunday. Around fifty floats and Guggen groups take part in the so-called Corteo. The carnival in Catholic Switzerland finally comes to an end on the night of Ash Wednesday.

Bern wakes the bear

But the very next day, the federal capital takes up the fool's ball: Bern kicks off the carnival on February 15 with the "Bear Liberation", when the bear is symbolically awakened from its hibernation in the Käfigturm. From then on, it's all go: music, drink and food on Münsterplatz. The Guggenmusik bands parade through Rathausgasse.

Young carnival fans get their money's worth on Friday afternoon with the children's parade. In the late evening, the torchlight procession lights up Untere Junkerngasse before the "Gasse- und Beizäfasnacht" closes the second day. And on Sunday there is the big carnival parade and a monster concert on the Bundesplatz.

The three most beautiful days in Basel

As soon as the last cacophonous sounds have faded away in Bern, it's "Morgestraich" in Basel: at four o'clock on Monday, the street lamps and shop windows turn off their lights and the many hand-painted lanterns light up the streets.

Over 11,000 people take part in the Cortège, the big parade on Monday and Wednesday afternoons. This year, 430 cliques, Guggen, floats, chaises and other units have registered with the Fasnacht Comité. They all play out a theme. The most popular themes this year are climate change and artificial intelligence, as a glance at the "Rädäbäng" carnival guide reveals.

In addition to the Cortège, the children's carnival and the Guggen concert on Tuesday as well as the lantern exhibition are also on the program. The Basel carnival comes to a close at four o'clock on Thursday morning with the "Ändstraich". And then things quiet down again.


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