Carnival time comes to Basel

It may lack the uninhibited atmosphere of Rio - and it's a week late. But the "Fasnacht" which began in Basel in the early hours of Monday is still three days of carnival fun attracting tens of thousands of people.

This content was published on March 13, 2000 - 12:02

It may lack the uninhibited atmosphere of Rio and the drunken debauchery of Mardi Gras - and it's a week late. But the "Fasnacht" which began in Basel in the early hours of Monday is still three days of carnival fun attracting tens of thousands of people.

The lights of the city went out at 4am. There was a short silence and then lanterns were lit and the sounds of fifes and drums filled streets and alleyways for the traditional "Morgestreich", local Swiss-German dialect for morning parade.

For the best part of a year, participants have been preparing grotesque masks and a dazzling array of costumes and floats for the Fasnacht.

They all belong to the cliques or carnival groups which take their fun seriously. Float themes and satiric verses are vetted in advance by carnival committees and there's a degree of organisation that would be unthinkable at the carnivals in some South American cities and New Orleans.

But the atmosphere is unique and many Basel people regard their carnival as the best three days of the year.

The subjects of satirical verses prepared by the cliques this year include the 1999 eclipse of the sun, the 125th anniversary of Basel zoo and the troubled preparations for Switzerland's national exhibition in 2002. As always, many poke fun at local politicians.

Basler Fasnacht is one of the world's oldest Lenten carnivals, dating back to 1376. Its start was switched to the Monday after Ash Wednesday in 1757 - and the reasons are unclear why it takes place during the week after the beginning of Lent.

From Swissinfo with agencies

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