The alarm went off at 2:45am. I climbed out of bed, walked over to the bathroom, and splashed cold water on to my face. I changed into my day clothes, taking care to put on extra layers. At a few minutes after 3am, we left the house and walked to the Bruderholz tram stop in the freezing cold. Thank heavens for the extra layers.
When we got to the tram stop, I couldn’t help but smile. The tram was full. At 3am on a Monday morning. There were no seats left, and people were standing. We got on and squeezed past the standing passengers towards an empty spot by the window. I looked around; parents with their young children, elderly couples, grandparents, teenagers; the entire neighbourhood was here. Some were in costumes, others were in plain clothes. Almost everyone had their Blagette pinned onto the lapel of their jackets. Nobody looked sleepy or drowsy, not even the kids. The lady standing next to me had even taken the effort to make herself up: foundation, mascara, lipstick – the works. Dedication, I think to myself. Or vanity and insecurity? It didn’t matter. Everyone was there for the same reason: Morgenstreich.
Happy Chinese New Year! The goat/ram/sheep may not be the most favoured zodiac sign, but hopefully it’ll be a better year than the last. Sheep are cute, in any case.
In other news, I miss having Yee Sang with my friends and stealing pineapple tarts from my colleagues’ desks. And munching on ngaku chips. Mmmmm….
A week before Fasnacht, we had the opportunity to visit a Cliquekeller.
A Cliquekeller is a clubhouse of sorts for a Clique (group), and is usually housed in a cellar of a nondescript building. A Cliquekeller is not usually easy to find, and intentionally so, as the planning and preparation of each Clique’s “Sujet” (theme) for the upcoming Fasnacht is kept secret until the day itself.
There are, however, occasions when the Cliquekeller opens its doors to outsiders, namely during Fasnacht itself, when food and drinks are sold as part of the festivities. Sometimes the Cliquekeller is rented out for private functions, as a means of earning side income for the Clique.
At other times, the Cliquekeller is opened for a small group of outsiders and a member of the Clique gives a brief presentation about the history and traditions of Fasnacht. Mr. TH’s office organised such an event, and we managed to sign up for it.
“Die drei scheenschte Dääg”, or “the three most wonderful days” (of the year).
That’s how locals describe Fasnacht, the Swiss version of carnival – and one of the most important events of the year in Basel.
For three days beginning Monday after Ash Wednesday, normal life is suspended and the city is filled with weird and colourful costumes, loud music fills the air, and the streets are laden with confetti. More than 12,000 Baslers of all ages participate, and even more line the streets to watch.