Saturday, February 28, 2009

A Unique Saturday

Lent began this week, and last year you might remember I learned about the tradition of Pancake Day, instead of Mardi Gras they have Pancake Day up here. Today I learned about another Lenten tradition, a Swiss tradition called Fastnacht. It is a little more like Mardi Gras and less like Pancake Day, but....they celebrate it after Lent begins. Does that make any sense? I have copied a few explanations about the origins for you so you can feel smarter after you read today's post. I can thank me later.

The origins
Carnival marks the end of the protestant fasting season. It takes place six weeks before Easter, a week after carnival in most catholic regions. This is due to a reform of the papal calendar in the 16th century, which protestant Basel duly ignored. Other than that, all religious holidays in Basel are on the same date as everywhere else!

Alternatively, the name ‘Fastnacht’ literally means ‘Fasting Eve’ as it originally referred to the eve of the fasting season. The festival is celebrated on the day before Ash Wednesday, or the last Tuesday before Lent.

This Carnival is a big deal in Basel, Switzerland and some of the Swiss folks here decided to carry on the tradition. I'm glad they don't start at the traditional time of 4 a.m. like they do in Basel! They started at the still unreasonable time of 7 a.m. with Morgestraich (morning march) played by the Canadysli Guggemusig. This is a brass band dressed in wild robes, masks, wigs and beads, playing painted instruments with varying degrees of skill. My friend's son is in the band so that is how we got invited, and what else were we going to be doing at 7 in the morning on a freezing cold Saturday?

So our Saturday morning started in a German pub listening to a brass band wearing Mardi Gras garb and drinking beer (well, TJ drank beer) and eating onion pie, burnt flour soup (isn't that just a roux?)and various baked goods. Again, no pie or soup for me but the pastries were good.

The band played several sets and one time everyone went outside, into the
-10C or 15F, butt freezing cold C or F, street and followed the band around the block in a parade, full with police escort. It was probably all of 9 a.m. by now, why am I here again?

Back inside to warm up and let the serious beer drinking start. We did go to the HUGE bakery next door and shopped. What an awesome place, it was full of breads, bagels, homemade pretzels, pies, pastries....on and on! We loaded up on some good stuff and went back to the pub.

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Our friend took some pictures of the band and the parade which I will post when he gets them to me. They should be mildly entertaining!

I guess we should take a long nap now and enjoy the rest of our Saturday. Mardi Gras North, the same but different.

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