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Basel carnival gets underway

Outlandish masks and colourful masks are hallmarks of Basel's annual carnival Keystone

Basel’s Fasnacht – Switzerland’s largest carnival – began on Monday with more than 10,000 participants braving rainy conditions to parade through city streets beginning at the traditional stroke of 4am. 

This content was published on March 6, 2017 - 19:19
swissinfo.ch and agencies/vdv

Hundreds of costumed bands of musicians and groups pulling large decorative lanterns gathered under this year’s theme of “Mer spränge dr Raame” – or, roughly translated, “we’re blowing things out of proportion”. In all, 482 groups participated, 20 more than last year. 

The jokes and decorated lanterns at Fasnacht tend to reflect local and world events. This year, they were dominated by the US presidential election, Brexit and doping alongside numerous Basel-area happenings. 

Always held the Monday after Ash Wednesday, Basel’s carnival goes on for 72 hours – the “three finest days”, as the city’s residents call them. In addition to the piccolo and drum bands, groups of performers known as “schnitzelbängg” travel throughout the city’s locales performing songs and poems that poke fun at well-known people and events.   

Black humour has been part of carnival since the Middle Ages when the lower classes seized the opportunity to mock their rulers from the safety of their disguises.

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