Basel, Bern & Lucerne carnivals in pictures

March 18, 2011, 11 Comments

11 Comments on "Basel, Bern & Lucerne carnivals in pictures"

  1. Janie Saturday March 19th, 2011 at 06:50 AM · Reply

    Most of those masks are very ugly. What is the meaning of the masks and do they represent Swiss history? What is the carnival about?

    • swisswatching Monday March 21st, 2011 at 11:29 AM · Reply

      I don’t think they’re ugly at all, they’re funny. For sure they are not the prettified masks you see in Venice, but in medieval times few people could afford those anyway. The ones in Basel are called Larve, and are all hand-made – those with big red noses and huge hair are known as Waggis, and are caricatures of the farmers from Alsace who would come to Basel market to sell produce, and were famous for liking a drink or two. Others are based on Napoleon’s troops, which is why the music is mainly pipes and drums (Napoleon invaded Switzerland in 1798). You can read more here:
      General Carnival info:
      Lucerne Carnival:
      Basel Carnival:
      What’s interesting is that the carnivals died out and only came back in the 19th century.

    • Sarah Marbet Monday March 21st, 2011 at 12:18 PM · Reply

      Diccon is just right. And not to forgett: in some parts of Switzerland Fasnacht was about scaring the winter ghosts away. So some Masks are ment to be ugly and scary. But I think, the ones Diccon shot are pretty funny and nice!

  2. aegeanx Saturday March 19th, 2011 at 11:38 PM · Reply

    What a great collection of images! Thank you for sharing them 🙂


  3. SwissGuy Wednesday March 23rd, 2011 at 04:50 PM · Reply

    The Basel masks are not meant to be ugly but rather to be grotesquely exaggerated caricatures. As for the military marching with fifes and drums in Basel: That’s not about the Napoleonic era but rather a reference to the tradition of medieval Swiss mercenaries. Basel used to be an important transit point for them travelling down the rhine…

    By the way: You took a photo of a Basel clique of Baslers living around Berne (the one with the Swiss cross – named Mutze-Bebbi). They usually also participate in the Bern procession.

  4. SwissGuy Wednesday March 23rd, 2011 at 04:56 PM · Reply

    Oh, I forgot to mention: While there are some costumes from the napoleonc era, an other part of Basel costumes (like harlequins) are also inspired by the 16th century Italian Commedia dell’Arte…

  5. Janie Thursday March 24th, 2011 at 04:04 AM · Reply

    Thank you so much for the information. I am looking at all the website you gave me. It is interesting to learn the reasons for the carnivals. I guess I am just amazed at how big they make the masks and the way the features are exaggerated.
    Sorry but I don’t really like them but then I don’t like clowns and will not go to a circus. I think I was frighted as a child at a circus. Not sure about that but I know that I really don’t like clowns. I guess these masks remind me of clowns in some way.

  6. Liz Sunday March 27th, 2011 at 11:15 AM · Reply

    What great photos! I’m not very familiar with carnivals (it never really caught on in Romandie), but these masks are fabulous! Will you be publishing a book of your photos soon?

    • swisswatching Sunday March 27th, 2011 at 11:47 AM · Reply

      Thanks Liz. Funny isn’t it that carnival isn’t big in Romandie. I know Fribourg has one (but then it’s a fairly bilingual city) but other than that it seems to be a Deustch Schweiz thing. As for a photo book, no plans for that just yet.

  7. Vasu Monday April 4th, 2011 at 03:27 PM · Reply

    Lovely pictures!
    I have been following your blog with great interest, and I find it very enjoyable and useful!
    I live in Basel, which undoubtedly has the best Fasnacht. It’s a colorful affair, which has to be experienced in person.
    Having said that, and having attended 2 Fasnachts, I may probably start skipping it from next year, as the locals and long timers do. I have to say that Gugge music, while excellent entertainment, does tend to get stale if you have heard it before!


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