LUCERNE, Switzerland – Carnival is back, bringing color and jubilation before the strictures of Lent set in, to places as diverse as Venice, Rio de Janeiro, New Orleans and, of course, Lucerne.
It is apparent, as seen through the lens of a photojournalist linked to epa, that this Alpine land of cuckoo clocks and secretive bankers is not immune to an annual dose of fun and merriment.
“For many people of Lucerne Carnival is the most beautiful time of the year,” the carnival organizer said in a statement. “Each time, it starts on Fat Thursday with the Big Bang,” the statement adds.
The Luzerner Fasnacht, a German-speaking version of carnival, is a time when the Swiss seriously have fun.
Lucern’s carnival dates back to the 15th century and its trademark, ugly, scary papier mache masks are designed to frighten the winter spirits away and herald Spring’s arrival.
As Winter darkness lifts from this old Swiss medieval city, its carnival bands, revelers, fireworks and lanterns illuminate it further, from Luzernerhof to Waldstatterstrasse, while onlookers crowd bars, restaurants and squares as the festive mood catches hold.
“Fasnacht” (Carnival) music called “Guggenmusik” is played throughout the region surrounding the breathtaking lake Lucerne.
The city literally shuts down to become a massive lantern-lit street party and parade, with marching brass bands (Guggenmusigen) such as the “Rotsee-Husaren” playing eight-tuba, all wind and percussion loud musical renditions from classic Status Quo rock anthems to “Zorba the Greek,” sometimes sounding skillfully “off-key.”
Lucerne’s carnival is essentially a medieval Christian tradition, meaning “the night before the fasting.”
It is the harbinger of Easter’s strict 40 days of penitence and fasting, when meat, alcohol and many other things were prohibited, so the villagers really took to the task of having a great time.
There are three dates to keep in mind during the 2018 Lucern Carnival: Thursday, Feb. 8, the big Fasnacht opening starts at 5 am. The so-called Dirty Thursday (Schmutziger Donnerstag), when Brueder (Brother) Fritschi, an imaginary chief of the guild “Zunft zum Safran,” lands by boat at Schweizerhofquai and opens Fasnacht officially with the Urknall (a loud bang).
And the Fötzeliräge (confetti rain) on Kapellplatz.
In medieval times, the best thing about Carnival was the chance of poking a bit of fun at the powerful without fear of reprisal.
In Lucern they still enjoy doing so, albeit behind their beautifully handmade masks.