Fasnacht is, festival-wise, by far-and-away the most important event on the Basel calendar. Perhaps more important even than Christmas.
Basler Fasnacht is also Switzerlands biggest carnival event. Fasnacht celebrations last for three days and commence with Morgenstreich at 4 am on Monday morning and finish at 4 am on the Thursday morning. Fasnacht commences with Morgenstreich as the Basel Cliques parade their lanterns lampooning various political events of the year through the three main squares of Basel to tunes played by the accompanying picollo players. Morgenstreich is performed in complete darkness and all public lights are turned off during the procession.
Monday and Wednesday afternoons see processions of the cliques through the city. Tuesday is a more relaxed day in the process with the various cliques recovering from the rigours of the previous day and visiting each other.
On all three days, but not at Morgenstreich, Guggenmusik bands prowl the streets of Basel pelting out their catchy renditions of popular songs. The highlight of the Guggenmisk is the Tuesday night "Monsterkonzert" as the larger groups process from one square to the next, from one stage to the next, pumping out their tunes. It's one hell of a sight and, in my opinion, the second most impressive performance of the Baseler Fasnacht.
The Lanterns from Morgenstreich are also on display in front of the Basle Cathedral on Tuesday which allows for closer inspection of the inscriptions - which may invite you to "join in holy communion with Fasnacht." The lit lanterns, fast-food sellers and people appreciated the unique Basler humour make for an excellent, warm and enjoyable atmosphere.
Morgenstreich, the Monsterkonzert and the lit lanterns are the absolute highlights of a Basler Fasnacht. For me, Morgenstreich is the one part you must see and without it you haven't really seen Basler Fasnacht.
Considerable costs are borne by those taking part in the Fasnacht performance and you must buy a "Plakatte" which you pin to your outer clothing. The proceeds of the sale are used to finance the costs which would otherwise be borne by the participants.
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Mark Sukhija is a travel and wine blogger, photographer, tourism researcher, hat-touting, white-shirt-wearing, New Zealand fantatic and eclipse chaser. Aside from at least annual visits to New Zealand, Mark has seen eclipses in South Australia (2002), Libya (2006), China (2009) and Queensland (2012). After twelve years in Switzerland, Mark moved back to London in 2012. You can follow Mark on Twitter or Facebook