Basel Carnival

Inscribed in 2017 (12.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

© Office fédéral de la culture suisse, 2016
Beginning on the Monday following Ash Wednesday and lasting exactly 72 hours, Basel Carnival is the largest carnival in Switzerland. Two parades take place on the Monday and Wednesday, bringing together 11,000 costumed carnivalists in parades of fife and drum cliques, floats and carriages. Tuesday is dedicated to children, with concerts and lantern exhibitions, while other events also punctuate the festival. The carnival can be compared to a huge satirical magazine where all visual or rhetorical means are used to make fun of flaws and blunders. Around 20,000 people of any age, social status, origin and political persuasion actively participate in the festival, which attracts around 200,000 Swiss and foreign visitors. The bearers and practitioners form associations of different types, composed equally of men and women. The carnival contributes to social cohesion, promotes tolerance through social criticism and helps safeguard the local dialect. Transmission occurs informally in families taking part for several generations. The ‘cliques’ also play an important role in this regard, with several having a section dedicated to encouraging the next generation. Several pre-carnival events are also organized, allowing for transmission beyond the carnival. The carnival has been successfully safeguarded over past decades thanks to measures taken by the communities as well as the authorities’ constant support.
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