Fasnacht lasts exactly three days, from 4.00 a.m. on Monday morning to 4.00 a.m. on Thursday. It is always held in the week after Ash Wednesday, and most of the action is concentrated in the city centre.
The three-day event traditionally kicks off with an early morning procession, the Morgenstraich, which starts at 4.00 a.m. on Monday morning. This is a procession of about 200 illuminated canvass lanterns decorated with paintings and rhymes that make fun of a particular "subject" - a local event from the past year. After the citys streetlights are switched off, theses lanterns are paraded through the darkened streets, accompanied by the cliques with their drummers and piccolo players. The bars and restaurants serve the three dishes traditionally associated with Fasnacht: Mehlsuppe (a hearty broth made from flour and onion), and onion and cheese pies.
There are two main processions, starting at 1.30 p.m. on Monday and Wednesday. More than 10 000 masked carnival members parade along a set route through the city centre displaying their "sujets" or special carnival topics, accompanied by the sound of drums, piccolos and "Gugge" music. They travel by foot, on carnival floats or horse-drawn carriages, carrying lanterns and many other comical accessories. People in the procession throw confetti and distribute oranges, yellow mimosa and many other things to the spectators along the route. Most groups also hand out their own colorful sheets of paper ("Zeedel") which make fun of local events and personalities in verse from, written in the unfathomable Basel dialect.
... The "Gaessle"
The "Gaessle" is special for the residents of Basel and visitors too. It simply refers to the custom of wandering through the narrow lanes and alleyways of Basels old town, marching to the hypnotic beat of the small and large troups of piccolo players and drummers, enjoying both new and old carnival compositions, and falling into a sort of reverie for a few hours that is entirely in the spirit of the unique festival.
We thank Basler Fasnachts-Committe for allowing these extracts from their homepage.