Basel FasnachtLife in Switzerland is orderly, no surprise there. Fasnacht turns that tidy world upside down—for starters, it takes place during the first week of Lent, after other carnival celebrations are over. But this is still Switzerland, and even for merry-makers, order trumps chaos.

Basel’s population can almost double during Fasnacht, and it is astonishing how well the enormous crowds are accommodated around the festivities.  Events are scheduled to the minute; schedules are adhered to; and active Fasnacht participants must follow many (unwritten) rules, which do not pertain to spectators. Even for observers, though, there are some do’s and don’ts.

Here are a few simple guidelines, to get the utmost out of the Fasnacht experience.

Basel Fasnacht
Marchers take scheduled breaks, and leave their precious masks and instruments outside restaurants. No Swiss would think of taking them.

Fasnacht do’s

  • Buy a Blaggedde (carnival badge) and wear it visibly on your coat: proceeds from the sale of the metal badges contributes to covering the costs of Fasnacht. If a Waggis catches you without a badge, you will be “punished” with an extra dose of confetti down your shirt, or a potato in your pocket!
  • Respect personal property: piccolos and drums are expensive instruments; they are NOT souvenirs!
  • Leave the confetti on the ground and avoid throwing objects, such as oranges. If you want to throw confetti, buy bags of it, there is plenty on sale everywhere. If a Waggis tosses you an orange or a bouquet of mimosa, it is yours to keep, not throw.
  • Come early to Morgestraich, and leave baby carriages and jewelry at home
  • Do the Gässle (wander the streets) and go with the flow!
Basel Fasnacht
Fasnacht begins in the dark, after all lights along the parade routes are doused just before 4:00 a.m. The atmosphere, as the drumming and piping kicks off, lit by lanterns and tiny lamps on marchers’ heads, is uniquely spellbinding.

Fasnacht don’ts

  • Do not block the way of the marchers. They have right of way! Besides, their masks and instruments block both a marcher’s vision and their freedom of movement.
  • Do not use flash for your photographs; it blinds the marchers and especially for Morgestraich, spoils the mood.
  • Do not set off fireworks—that’s for another time, simply not appropriate for Fasnacht.
  • Do not wear a costume or mask or exhibit drunken behavior. Only active participants wear costumes, and although plenty of white wine goes down during Fasnacht, Basel’s carnival is not about drunken revelry.
Basel Fasnacht
The amount of confetti and slips of paper on the ground after a day of Fasnacht marching is astonishing. Not to worry, though: street cleaners will have things set to right before daybreak after Fasnacht ends at 4:00 a.m. on Thursday.

For a detailed program of events leading up to, and following, the “three most beautiful days” visit (E, F, G).


Related post:

Fasnacht for a Foodie

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