Lucerne festivities mark the start of Swiss carnival season

Enjoying an early-morning smoke in front of the famous Lucerne Kapellbrücke. Keystone

Annual carnival festivities have kicked off in Catholic towns across Switzerland, notably in Lucerne, where revellers were up at 5am to start the party.

This content was published on February 28, 2019

If you were sleeping just before dawn in Lucerne in central Switzerland on Thursday, it probably wasn’t for long: at 5am, a resounding cannon shot was let off to officially begin the city’s ‘FasnachtExternal link’, or carnival.

Some 15,000 poured onto the streets for parading, music, dancing, and the traditional costume-wearing. The weather, as it has been in Switzerland for some time, was perfect, and the atmosphere jovial, authorities declared.

The Lucerne carnival, which takes place on the so-called “Fat Thursday” (the Thursday before Ash Wednesday), is the second biggest in Switzerland behind Basel’s famous Fasnacht, due to begin on March 11.


Elsewhere in the country, crowds were also out in force in Solothurn, where a traditional (since 1888) activity took place of dressing in white shirts and red head-scarves to shout in the streets to ‘chase away the winter’.

Carnival is traditionally the time for letting your hair down and indulging in excess before the rigours of Lent begin. It is also a time for satirical verses and mockery of current events.

The masks, cacophonous music, and general noise-making are thought to go back to pre-Christian rituals designed to frighten away the evil spirits of winter and usher in the spring.


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