Coming from the Caribbean and Latin America, when one hears the word ‘carnival’ instantly bright colors, feathers, scantily costumed women and men, and loud upbeat dance music come to mind. When the Swiss hear ‘carnival’, however, the same picture does not appear. Instead drums, trumpets, lanterns, unique and original masks and costumes (often making socio-political implications) are seen. Although both are very different events, there are several common factors: culture, tradition and community. Both types of festivals are deeply rooted in the cultures and history of the people.
As an expat, one may not always know what to expect when it comes to carnival (Fasnacht), especially if you have never experienced such a festival or you are accustomed to a totally different scene. Here are a few tips to help you make the best of this exciting approaching season:
- Be sure to get lots of rest leading up to Fasnacht. Everything starts at 4:00am on the Monday following Ash Wednesday (this year 19th February). The city goes completely dark and a sea of lanterns can be seen lighting up the streets. The experience won’t disappoint! The festivities last for 3 days with music that resonates through the city and plenty of activities around the clock.
- Show your support by buying a badge or ‘Plakette’, profits go towards covering the cost of the costumes for the Cliques. The Swiss take pride in their Fasnacht and prepare for several months leading up to what they call “the three best days”. Bystanders and spectators are advised not to dress up as this is reserved only for the members of each Clique. No wonder it has been added by UNESCO onto its list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
- After enjoying all the music from the Gugge bands, costumes and topics from each Clique, you can’t miss out on some of the local specialties. You can try a flour based soup called Mehlsuppe, and unique breads and pastries like Fasnachtskiechli and Fastenwähe. These treats are sold by street vendors, local bakeries and even in the supermarket like Migros and Coop.
Join us on Tuesday, February 20th at 6pm at Starbucks (Freie Strasse 89) where we will meet before heading off to listen to Gugge music. Tuesday evening is all about the Gugge music bands. At 6.30 pm the “Sternenmarsch” begins – a long procession of Gugge music bands that converge from different directions (hence the name “star-shaped march”) and make their way from Messe via Clarastrasse to the Marktplatz or Barfüsserplatz. Large stages are erected there for the musicians to present their songs to the Carnival audience.
This is a casual get-together for members and non-members alike (free of charge). Bring your friends!
For more information, visit the event link here: http://www.pwg-basel.ch/events/enjoy-gugge-music-with-pwg/