Forget Halloween, get ready for the Swiss Carnival!
Halloween is quickly approaching and while it’s mostly kept alive in the United States, in the past decades it has reached the European continent as well. Although it was popular in Switzerland around 1999 and 2000, nowadays it just can’t compete with the colorful Swiss carnival.
Historically, Halloween itself goes back thousands of years to the time of the Celts. The end of harvest and the beginning of the winter solstice was marked “All Hallows Eve”. It was a time when people believed the dead roamed the earth.
Nevertheless, Halloween in Switzerland is mainly a neighborhood affair in some communities. Hence, Halloween events like trick-or-treating have never caught on. To be honest, who needs Halloween in a country that has more masked carnival festivals per capita than anywhere else in the world?
Fun for days at Fasnacht Carnival Celebration
Although Swiss people like to dress up for any occasion, they do prefer a traditional element. A long-time celebration, Fasnacht carnival is full of people wearing elaborate costumes, bands playing music, food, drinks and general fun. Hence, it’s a time for the well-behaved Swiss to finally let their hair down.
You can start to feel it in February. According to an old Germanic sacrificial practice, during Fasnacht you should drive away demons and celebrate the end of winter. Traditionally it begins on “Dirty Thursday” – the Tuesday before Lent. Because Lent starts 40 days before Easter, the dates therefore change every year. Although people in some regions begin celebrating Fasnacht already on November 11th, the festivities usually start after Christmas, on January 6th. That’s the time when people get their masks out and the Swiss carnival celebration starts!
Customs and traditions at the Swiss Carnival
Although Halloween events are mostly about candy, costumes and parties, the Swiss carnival celebration is much more elaborate. The customs differ from region to region, but there are certain parallels. Similarly to Halloween, the nights between winter and spring are a time when evil spirits roam around. This period also welcomes a new life and an awakening of nature. It’s all about saying goodbye to winter and saying hi to spring! In addition, just before the period of fasting (or Lent) begins, people use up the remaining winter stores and have themselves a feast.
The Fasnacht carnival celebration is symbolized by a vast number of different characters. In general, when they perform, they appear as a uniformed group of one type of character. In most cases they playfully interact with each other. And while at Halloween parties you can commonly see nurses, celebrities or cartoon characters, Fasnacht costumes are scary and supernatural-themed. You’ll see demons, witches, jesters, animal figures and many other wild personifications.
Carnival participants walk through the streets with beautifully colored lanterns, while big bands or Guggen play out-of-tune music. The louder, the better!
Bring a Swiss flavor to your Happy Halloween
While the Swiss carnival is still months away, it’s an endless inspiration source for your upcoming Halloween events. Drive away evil spirits with a scary costume! Be creative and witty. Step away from the expected and incorporate a traditional element. In addition, you’ll have a great backstory for your costume, which everyone’s going to want to know.
Another popular Halloween tradition is to decorate your windows with Jack-O-Lanterns. Similarly in many Swiss festivals, people place candles in pumpkins and lanterns. The light chases away dark spirits.
When in doubt, turn to candy! We all know it and we all love it. Fortunately, the Swiss know their candy. It’s high quality, often from a natural, sustainable production and absolutely delicious. Packed neatly in colorful wrappers, you can give away chewy candy, chocolate sticks, branches, malt napolitains, natural hazelnut chocolates, chocolate ladybugs and other melting Swiss specialties. The great thing is that you can get them all in various sizes, right here.
Lastly, don’t forget to sing, dance and have fun! Let loose like the Swiss do at Fasnacht and have a happy Halloween!