Only justification I can think of about delaying a blog of most prolific and exuberant event I experienced during my stay in Basel, Switzerland last year is that I felt outwitted and too small to capture the essence in mere words. Even pictures presented here in blog is tip of the iceberg; not in terms of size but in terms of joyous mood it represents in massive ways. Anyhow it’s always difficult to capture the event whose soul is music.
Fasnacht is the spring carnival of music, oranges, flowers, bands and lots and lots of confetti. More than that, it’s event of year-long practice and preparations of various processions and bands. You will be amazed by witnessing the hand-crafted mask and costumes representing underlying theme. This theme is called Sujet. It could be based on current events, political or renounced figures or some global event presented in sarcastic manner.
Various bands can be classified based on their instruments and play style and also their routes. Cliques play piccolo and Basler drums. Another brass band formation is called Gugge. Then there are Schnitzelbank singers with bard-like quality of singing away verses in satirical manner based on current events of Basel in Basel German. This three day celebration starts with 4:00 am Morgestraich; lantern procession showing various Sujet colorfully illuminated lanterns accompanied by Clique music play. With whole of old Basel drowned in darkness with lights turned off for Morgestraich, its sight to behold ( Though I lost opportunity to be present at Morgestraich due to night long excursions to nearby town of Liestal for fire parade followed by costume party and drank the hell out of myself )
Apart from the city-wide fun and frolic mood intermingled with processions and bands, some of the typical European celebration rules makes Fastnach one of the unique celebration to attend to.
- During Fastnach everyone will be addressed on first-name terms irrespective of class, age or race to alleviate the ambience of getting acquainted and making new friends.
- Theme of the most of the Sujet represents political figure and events in satirical light which itself points towards tradition of freedom of speech. Though any foul or offensive language and compromising behavior cannot be tolerated and regulated well by authority.
- Most of the mask wore by groups are crafted carefully by groups using papier mâché These head-mask are called Larve.
- As the cost of costumes, band and music instruments bear by participants themselves, there is a tradition of supporting them financially through buying Fastnach badges. Every year a competition held for artists to come up with badge designs. Winning design will be chosen for Fastnach badge by committee of Fastnach. Pinning a badge visibly has one more advantage of not becoming victim of confetti-shower from passing processions as being rude not to support the celebration in right mood.
Though there is lot more still left to know about this one of a kind carnival, it’s best to experience and explore which is, I think, common rule to every carnival, celebration and place.