Fasnacht, Basel’s Carnival celebration, starts the Monday after Mardi Gras and Ash Wednesday. Carnival in Rio, Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Carnival in Venice, and the overwhelming majority of Carnival celebrations end on Fat Tuesday with the start of lent on Ash Wednesday. Why then does Basel’s Carnival take place the week after lent has started? There are several theories.
It is thought to be Protestant Basel’s response to the Catholic idea of giving up things for Lent. As Protestants they believe in moderation all the time. Throwing one heck of a party and indulging of all manners of excess only to renounce them doesn’t fit with their philosophy. Some argue that it is this aversion to lent that causes them to hold it later.
Others argue that it is a desire to provoke neighboring Catholics, who are already fasting.
Basel’s Carnival celebrations began a half-week after Ash Wednesday even before the reformation. In Basel, Lent did not begin until the week after Ash Wednesday because people fasted on Sundays as well (to achieve their 40 days of fast). This would also explain why Basel’s Carnival begins on Monday mornings.
Some Swiss say Baslers do it just to be difficult and/or different.
- Morgestreich, An Early Morning Parade During Basel’s Carnival Celebration (schwingeninswitzerland.wordpress.com)
- Basler-Fasnacht 2012 : A Swiss Carnival that starts in the dark (j0annesim.wordpress.com)
- Fasnacht (Basel’s Carnival) Is Days Of Fun (schwingeninswitzerland.wordpress.com)
- What Makes Basel’s Carnival Different? (schwingeninswitzerland.wordpress.com)