Carnival in Switzerland

 

This Picture-Newsletter page celebrates the carnival tradition of Switzerland. The images were taken in Lucerne on Monday 8th February 2016, and in Basel on Wednesday 17th February the same year.

Lucerne Carnival
From “dirty Thursday” through to Shrove Tuesday every year, the Swiss city of Lucerne is taken over by carnival fever. On the Monday is held the main carnival parade, complete with costumed and masked brass bands and people dressed as traditional characters from Swiss mythology. It is believed that the present day tradition goes back to the 15th century, when the craft Guilds were important in the city, and competition between them made for exciting carnival. Groups tried to out-do each other with their fantastic costumes and masks, and Lucerne’s narrow streets resounded to the music of the various bands. Probably the main aim in history and through to the present day was to banish the spirits of winter and celebrate the end of that cold, dark season. As you will see in many of the photos, the key ingredient of the parade is disguise, with every participant having to wear a mask so they can’t be identified in their celebration of ‘mis-rule’.


Basel Carnival
The annual carnival in Basel is the largest and most important in Switzerland. The ‘Fasnacht’, as it is called, is held from the first Monday in Lent to the following Thursday morning. Parades take place on the Monday and Wednesday afternoons, with many tractor–drawn floats bearing masked and costumed figures, and traditionally the participants throw confetti into the crowd and hand out sweets. Music is supplied by brass bands and more historic bands of pipers and drummers. An estimated 15,000 – 20,000 people take part, watched by many more locals and tourists. The origins of carnival in Basel are even more obscure than they are in Lucerne, but the consensus is that the medieval Guilds and their obligation to do military service had a lot to do with it. However, as these photos show, this is no museum-piece festival, but a living tradition which is known in the city as “the three best days”.

Lucerne
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Basel      
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