Fasnacht

It started with a bang. Make that a boom. A very loud one, like cannon fire. At 5 o’clock in the morning yesterday. Immediately followed by the wild and crazy strains of marching band music echoing through the streets.

I buried my head in my pillow and wondered, what the what? But then I remembered: it was the official start of Fasnacht, the Swiss version of carnival.

It seems that the dates of Fasnacht vary widely and the biggest carnival, in Basel, actually starts much earlier in February. But here in Brunnen we follow similar traditions to nearby Lucerne, starting on Dirty Thursday and finishing on what I always called Pancake Tuesday:

So yesterday afternoon I went to investigate. It didn’t take long to figure out that this was a very big day around here. Many smaller shops were closed for the celebrations. All through the streets I saw parades of school children and people, young and old, in crazy get ups. Green hair, full face makeup, colourful costumes of all kinds. Walking down a quiet sidestreet, a small boy dressed in a miniature police uniform and carrying a bag of confetti politely said, “Gruëtzi!”

The main street was blocked off and filled with people dancing to band music. Stands were set up and tables laid out where people sat drinking beer and snacking. Oddly, donuts seemed to be a big thing. Although I think these were closer to the apple fritters or ‘beignets’ than the donuts I grew up with.

There was confetti everywhere on the street and clouds of smoke emanated from one float where I believe they were going to burn the traditional carnival ‘bonhomme’.

It’s funny to see the normally sedate Swiss cut loose. Not being able to communicate much in the local lingo I kept a low profile; frankly, not being dressed up at all made me feel like a party pooper. But I loved watching the joyful tomfoolery of it all. And I appreciate how deeply the local traditions are embedded in the culture here.

Some people were shocked when the Swiss council last week announced the official end to pandemic restrictions, with the exception of masks on public transport, in care homes and healthcare settings. But with the Omicron variant now waning and hospitals not especially overwhelmed, it was decided that now was the time to get back to some semblance of normal. Pretty sure somebody chose the date with carnival in mind.

I know it still tough for some, and I can only hope this is the beginning of the end of this miserable virus. But for all the crowds out enjoying Fasnacht yesterday after two years of restrictions, it felt like a party in more ways than one.

How about you? Ready to celebrate?

P.S. Shout out to WordPress for the quick support in posting the video. I have a plan that lets me share video content but needed help in understanding (or remembering?) how to do it!

16 comments

  1. Ally Bean · February 25

    This looks like fun. I am taken with the costumes, so colorful. I am ready to celebrate, but apparently the world at large has other ideas. What a strange week this has been leading into what usually is a wildly [quietly] fun weekend around here.

    • MELewis · February 25

      Yes, well…I had thought of ‘in other news’ (which is like the elephant in the room) when I started off this post. That ‘boom’ we heard echoed others, many times worse. So the celebrations are at least somewhat tempered. But hey, at least the pandemic is receding! Vive la vie!

  2. margaret21 · February 25

    I too don’t think of the Swiss when carnival is under discussion. They might as well enjoy this weekend as the world plunges once more into worry and uncertainty.

    • MELewis · February 25

      Right. It is hard to ignore the other craziness. Although perhaps that is the only way to forget, if only for a while.

  3. chezperrier · February 25

    I’m really enjoying your posts about all the goings-on in Switzerland. I have to admit that I wondered if that was really “cutting loose” when I viewed the video. Oh boy, they’re really going wild…for Swiss people? I got a little chuckle to start my day. In any case, it really does look like fun and I would love to experience it.

    • MELewis · February 25

      Ha, ha…well, yes. Cutting loose is relative. In a country where not a speck of rubbish is found on the street, a sea of confetti and chaos at odd hours is pretty wild. And to be fair, my video was tame compared to a few of the cacophonic musical moments!

      • chezperrier · March 17

        Yes, I did think that we only got to enjoy a little clip of all the festivities that were really happening at the time. Pretty fun!

  4. midihideaways · February 25

    Mmmhhh, Fasnachtskrapfen!! Takes me right back to my childhood in Germany! 🙂 Once, my aunt bought a big box of doughnuts and told my brothers that one of them was filled with shoe polish – they ate the whole lot to find out but she’d of course joked!!

    • MELewis · February 27

      Aha, so the carnival donut is a thing in the German-speaking world! Love the silly sense of humour around this time. Glad it took you back. Whereabouts in Germany are you from?

  5. Colin Bisset · February 26

    So nice to see. Although those lovely chewy words make me regret missing out on studying German at school. I mean, really, who couldn’t love guggenmusik!?

    • MELewis · February 27

      I also regret not having studied any German at school. Not that it would have been much help around here as the Swiss German dialect is really like a separate language. If I had landed here 20 years ago it’s a challenge I might have been up to. Now it feels like mission impossible!

  6. Dale · February 28

    What a way to wake up! Looks like a fun time for all. It is refreshing in these days of doom and gloom to take a moment to celebrate.

    • MELewis · February 28

      Yes, well…I was all in at first but after another sleepless night thanks to the wee hours band music, I am less enthused this morning! Can’t wait for Lent to begin…🤨 (And I am not a believer!)

      • Dale · February 28

        I would imagine it would get rather tiresome and buahahaha! I feel you! 🙂

  7. Vanessa in France · March 6

    I’ve only just caught up with your post, and reading it took my mind off things for a short time. As for the pandemic, it seems to have paled into insignificance. Masks and pass vaccinal no longer necessary here from 14th March.

    • MELewis · March 7

      Glad you enjoyed the small distraction of Fasnacht and happy to hear about the lifting of restrictions in France. It feels like high time. As you say the rest of the world seems to be going to hell in the proverbial handbasket….or at least, worrying developments and fear for the future. Plus, a lot of noise in France around the elections. I guess we will have to wait for life to get back to any real sort of normal,

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