Custom: Basel carnival starts in the freezing cold

regional customs
Basel carnival starts in the freezing cold

Carnival cliques with lanterns parade through the streets of Morgestraich in Basel. photo

© Georgios Kefalas/KEYSTONE/dpa

The three great days of carnival in Basel started with whistles and drums, as always a week after Shrove Monday. Warm laundry was particularly needed this time.

First absolute silence, then suddenly a loud concert of whistles and drums: This is how the traditional Basel carnival began on Monday with temperatures around freezing point and an ice-cold wind. At 4:00 a.m. sharp, the master of ceremonies gave the command “Morgestraich: Forward, march!” the starting shot.

The carnival clubs, the cliques, started moving with their bands of musicians, the drummers and whistlers playing the little piccolo flutes. In the city, which was completely darkened as always, they lit the lights in their meter-high, painted lanterns. The festival, as usual a week after Shrove Monday, is considered the most important Protestant carnival in the world.

The folk festival was canceled twice due to the pandemic, last year it took place with significantly fewer people than usual. On Monday, even at the early hour, there was a lot of activity in the streets again. For them there was the traditional flour soup as well as onion and cheesecake in the open pubs. The participants are in costume, but disguises are frowned upon by onlookers. The spectacle lasts exactly 72 hours. In previous years, 200,000 spectators came to the city.

The lanterns, which are carried through the streets, target political and social events, similar to the floats in Shrove Monday parades. Climate change and gender-sensitive language were among the popular topics this time. The schnitzel benches are also typical of the Basel carnival. These are mocking songs in verse form, which are performed in pubs over the three days and comment on the topicality in a humorous, satirical and biting manner.


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