“Die drey scheenschte Dääg” (“the three most beautiful days”)
This is how the locals call the Carnival of Basel. The name is very appropriate because it is the most important event in Basel which transforms the city into a huge spectacle and brings the whole region into the streets. The Basler Fasnacht is a very old tradition with roots in the 14th century. The oldest existing document concerning the event dates from 1376 and refers to the “evil Fasnacht” but the form in which Fasnacht is celebrated today is just over 100 years old and is carefully guarded by the Basler Fasnachts Comité ( http://www.fasnachts-comite.ch )
The Basler Fasnacht starts on the Monday after Ash Wednesday at precisely 4:00 am with the so-called Morgestraich. As the clock strikes four in the morning, groups of fifers and drumers in charivari costumes and masks with small headlights start moving through the dark center of down while playing their carnival tunes. They are followed by carnival cliques which carry transparent lanterns made from wood and canvas, some of them 3-4m high. It is a unique experience with the city lamp being switched off for this period.
On Monday afternoon and also on Wednesday afternoon the parade takes place an the Cliquen march along a planned route through the city, making their way through throngs of spectators. On Tuesday it is time for the kids and to go on the streets Children and Family Fasnacht. On this day, there are many parades through the city, but, this time, it is not the Cliques that take part, rather families with their children. If the people come from different Cliques, it is common to see groups with mixed costumes and masks.
But before you go to the Basler Fasnacht you need to know how to properly behave during the event. There are several rules which you have to follow:
From all the unwritten Fasnacht rules this one is the most important:
Buy Blaggedde (Fasnacht badge) and pin it on your lapel so that it can be easily seen !
Without the badge you may be attacked with Confetti ! It is really in bad taste to go to the Fasnacht without the badge.
When asked if you have a badge you may respond: “Me het e Blaggedde” – we’ve got a badge.
Different types of badges may be purchased from street vendors. The cheapest one costs 8 swiss francs. You can also buy them much earlier, before the Fasnacht begins, at kiosks and at special sales stands.
The Fasnächtler dress up in a wide variety of costumes. Members of the various Cliques wear costumes that fit a specific theme which could represent politicians, animals, comic characters etc. They are almost always satirical and humorous and tend to focus on the social and political developments of the preceding year. The more traditional masks such as Napoleonic soldiers, harlequins and Waggis will not change and remain every year the same.
There are a lot of words and expressions in Basel German dialect ( Baseldytsch ) which describe the event itself and everything around it. Here are the most important ones:
Carnival of Basel GLOSSARY:
Blaggedde – Carnival badge
Clique – traditional Fasnacht formation/group
Cortège – parades taking place on Monday and Wednesday afternoon
die drey scheenschte Dääg – “the three most beautiful days”. That is how the locals call Fasnacht in Basel
Fasnächtler – Fasnacht participant
Gugge – brass bands playing Guggenmusik during Carnival
Kopflaterne – small, head-mounted lantern
Larve – traditional Fasnacht mask
Räppli – confetti
Schyssdräggziigli – individuals or groups not belonging to a clique that also wander the streets and play music. Also called “wild” Fasnächtler
Sujet – a theme adapted by the clique for the Fasnacht
Waage – large trailers from which Waggis are throwing oranges, sweets, flowers etc. to the crowd
Waggis – traditional Fasnacht costume representing ironically the Alsatian farmer
Zeedel – flyers containing ironic verses which are distributed by Cliques
Zugslaterne – large parade lantern
The Olympics in Sochi finished shortly before Fasnacht but some were still in GOLD fever … There was a big group in golden costumes, some of them wearing cross-country skis and some representing the famous Jamaican bobsledders team. From time to time the bobsledders team was making a push-off stretch which made the crowd go crazy … They really made me laugh. It was my number one during Fasnacht.