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!