A helpful overview to Basel’s UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage event and its festivities. Use this guide as a tool to navigate Fasnacht and learn why it’s known as the “Die drey scheenschte Dääg” (the three most beautiful days).
On the first Monday after Ash Wednesday, at 4:00, the Basel Fasnacht begins with Morgenstreich. Just before 4:00, all of the shops and homes in the city center turn off their lights.
From this point forward, only the lanterns from the Fasnachtscliquen illuminate the city. The sound of the piccolos and drums echo through the streets until the sun rises.
Zuglanternen vs. Kopflanfernen
There are two main types of lanterns: the large Zugslanternen (parade lanterns) and the head‑mounted Kopflaternen (head lanterns).
Each zugslaterne (parade lanterns) has a theme, which is chosen by the respective clique (more on cliques later in the guide). The lanterns often depict political satire imagery and are adorned with Swiss German poems about the subject.
Zugslaterne at Münsterplatz
The Zugslaternen are displayed from Monday evening until Wednesday morning at Münsterplatz, and are lit in the evenings.
The parades taking place on Monday and Wednesday of Fasnacht are called the Cortège. Wagons throw Räppli (confetti), sweets, fruits, and flowers to the spectators.
You are more likely to be ambushed by or stuffed with Räppli if you are not wearing a Blaggedde (pin). These can be purchased in the weeks before Fasnacht or during the festivities. The funds go to support the festivities. There’s a new Blaggedde every year with a new theme.
At the end of each day you can be ankle deep in Räppli. By the next morning, the streets are cleared. Swiss efficiency!
Cliques are made up of piccolos and drums. They were created in the mid 19th century. They play a mix of traditional pieces as well as some pop songs.
Kinderfasnacht (Children and Family Fasnacht)
Children and Family Fasnacht takes place on the Tuesday of the festivities. Cliques do not show up with their groups, but instead with their families. It is very common on this day especially to see small groups made up of people with different costumes playing together. Sometimes families will have a small wagon filled with children, and bags of Räppli and sweets they will drag as part of the parade procession.
Guggenmusik is comprised of brass and percussion carnival bands or groups that perform during Fasnacht. They often play intentionally “off‑key.”
My Dad at Fasnacht
My father has been part of the Gugge the Grachys Symphoniker. This photo was taken in 2019. He is wearing their 2019 themed costume.
I am very proud of my dad participating in a Swiss Guggenmusik Fasnacht band. Participating in Fasnacht is a lot of dedication and hard work. My family is also very grateful the Grachys have welcomed us into the Grachy family!
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