Swiss carnival enthusiasts mourn second lost season

Around 100 people defied lockdown restrictions to mark "Dirty Thursday" in Lucerne. Keystone / Urs Flueeler

The traditional starting date of the Swiss carnival season is being mourned rather than celebrated this year as a result of the coronavirus.

This content was published on February 11, 2021 - 11:54

The pandemic has put paid to the traditional cultural and social event for a second successive season. In Lucerne, home to one of the biggest processions, more than 100 people defied the lockdown to mark what should have been the start of a weeks-long spectacle of exotic costumes and music. A coffin was placed in a square and surrounded with candles to mark the death of the carnival that usually sees thousands of people thronging the streets.

Lucerne police say they dispersed the unauthorised gathering without serious incident and handed out some fines. Gatherings of more than five people have been banned in Switzerland since mid-January amid fears that variant strains of Covid-19 could spark a third wave of infections in the country.

The Swiss carnival season kicks off each year on “Dirty Thursday”, a week before the Christian calendar date of Ash Wednesday (February 17 this year). Many Swiss towns and cities stage processions, which frequently feature costumes and placards satirising noteworthy current affairs of the year.

Last year, a handful of processions took place in Switzerland before the first Covid-19 case was detected on February 25. Three days later, the government banned public events of more than 1,000 people, which effectively ended the carnival season. In early March, several hundred people took to the streets of Basel to mourn the cancellation of one of the biggest processions in Switzerland.

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