Two years ago, hardly anyone could have foreseen that it would be so long before Basel could stage its Fasnacht again. But that day has now finally arrived. At four o’clock in the morning, the city experienced the goosebump moment that it had been sorely missing for so long. Beat Jans, president of the cantonal government, shared with us why these three days are immensely important, not only from a social point of view but also in cultural and economic terms.
Beat Jans, how would you describe the Basel Fasnacht to international guests who are not familiar with the “Drei scheenschte Dääg” (“Three loveliest days”)?
On the Monday after Ash Wednesday, at four o’clock in the morning, the lights go out all over Basel. At the last chime of the bell, countless drummers and pipers join together in playing the same tune. This casts a musical spell over the city, which persists for the following 72 hours, bringing with it not only tradition and joy but also wit and creativity.
The Basel Fasnacht has been on the UNESCO intangible cultural heritage list since 2017. How, in your opinion, does it merit this listing?
For me, it’s primarily the cultural diversity that makes Basel’s Fasnacht so special. On the one hand, we have the music, which reverberates throughout the city from the cliques and the Guggenmusik (brass instrument) bands. And, at the same time, the artisanal aspects feature prominently, with a wealth of artistic lanterns and delightfully varied masks to be admired on the streets. The importance of the Basel dialect must also not be forgotten – in the verses sung by the Schnitzelbänggler (storytellers) and on the Zeedel (witty leaflets) distributed to the public. All these factors lend the Basel Fasnacht its identity and promote cultural participation to an extent scarcely found at any other event in Switzerland.
What impact does the Basel Fasnacht have on local tourism and the economy in general?
Prior to corona, the Basler Fasnacht generated around 10,000 overnight stays in the city’s hotels and guesthouses. These three days are also some of the most lucrative of the year for Basel’s restaurants and bars. But that’s not all. The impact in the media should not be underestimated either. With impressive photos and moving images, Fasnacht helps the city of Basel to raise its profile throughout the world.
How do you think that Fasnacht 2022 – the first carnival after a two-year forced break due to corona – will differ from previous events?
The biggest change, of course, is that, as Fasnacht is starting, there’s a war going on in Europe. The events in Ukraine will certainly not be ignored. Fortunately, Fasnacht always takes politics to task. And that will no doubt be even more the case than usual this year. There’s bound to be a critical examination of the situation in Ukraine. And I’m pleased about that. What will also be different is that we will have our Fasnacht again after a two-year break due to corona. Admittedly, it will be a slimmed-down version without the procession, but at least it will be taking place. In emotional terms, however, this is a very special Fasnacht. The anticipation, which even in normal years tends to be celebrated to excess with pre-carnival events, marching practice and other gatherings, has gone through the roof this year. This is something that has become clear to me in the many conversations I’ve had with active Fasnacht participants. There are also many more children than usual experiencing Fasnacht for the first time. This I why I think that these three days will stick in our minds for a long time to come.