Switzerland’s biggest carnival kicks off in Basel

Switzerland’s biggest carnival kicks off in Basel
The traditional "Morgestraich" procession on Monday. Photo: SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP
Large crowds gathered in the historic centre of Basel early on Monday morning for the traditional 4am beginning of the country’s largest and most important carnival.

Tens of thousands of people lined the streets of the city's historic old town in near-freezing but dry conditions for the traditional lantern-lit ‘Morgestraich’ procession which begins at 4am with the turning off of city lights.

The atmospheric parade kicks of the “drey scheenschte Dääg” (“the three most beautiful days) as the exactly 72-hour long carnival is known in Basel. It features musical groups known as ‘cliques’ playing drums and small flutes known as piccolos while carrying lanterns decorated with topical themes.

This year tensions over North Korea, fake news and the rise of insect cuisine were among the international targets for satire during the Morgestraich.

The Carnival of Basel was last December inscribed onto Unesco’s list of intangible heritage. It attracts some 200,000 visitors a year.

The last carnival to be held in Switzerland every year, it is unique in that it is a Protestant affair rather than a Catholic one.

A 1959 news report on the traditional Morgestraich (in German).