Thursday, 31 January 2008

It's Fasnacht - Carnival Season in Switzerland

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If you happen to be in Switzerland at the end of January/beginning February and you get woken up in the morning by noise from bells, banging on dustbin lids, horns or whatever, then the people have not escaped from the local mental hospital, they are celebrating the beginning of the carnival season in the areas around Solothurn and Luzern. Fasnacht is mainly a catholic thing, so the big things happen in the catholic areas of Switzerland. I live in the kanton of Solothurn and although I am not a carnival person, you can't really escape from it. The photo shows the "chesslete" which is the beginning. People dress up in a white night shirt with a red scarf round their necks (it must be red) and they wear a white night cap. The shops are full of them for people to buy. They then meet at five in the morning and start making their noise in a procession (organised of course, we are in Switzerland) and at eight in the morning they usually retire to the nearest restaurant where they eat cheese cakes and flour soup (you roast flour in a saucepan, add liquid, salt to taste and the soup is ready). This is all part of tradition. Then everyone either goes to work, or goes home depending on whether they will carry on celebrating for the rest of the day. Oh yes, in the afternoon there is a confetti war in the streets, but mainly for the kids.

I am afraid my kids had a mother that was a bit reluctant to take part in all the festivities, but they had some cousins that would take them. Either you are a carnival family or not. Anyhow this morning when I got to work I was one of the first as the others were still running around in town in their white nightgowns. Eventually they came to work and my colleague who is a few years younger than me and did not participate in the fun, told me they would be coming to our company with the soup wagon and whether I wanted any. I am not keen on soup in the morning at nine o'clock, but found a few photos would be appropriate. Here is one of the soup wagon which is pulled along the road by a tractor.

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This wagon tours around the village where I work and stops at the local companies in the industrial area where people fetch their soup. Needless to say our company did have a distinct soupy smell around in the office this morning.

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As you can see there are five horns fixed to the wagon which they use to signalised that they have arrived. There are various carnival organisations and each has their own thing.

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This organisation is known as the "Fedelio Zunft" and as long as I have been working in this village (28 years) they have come every year. This evening the carnival takes place in the various restaurants in our local town of Solothurn. They have been decorated and the beer will be flowing. Many groups singing satirical songs about local well known people, such as politicians and shop owners will be touring around the restaurants. There will also be drumming groups. There are some people in the company where I work that have taken the week off, as this carnival thing goes until Ash Wednesday - next week on Wednesday. I will be working as usual - as my Mr. Swiss says either you have it in the blood or not and if you don't grow up with it, you never will.

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