Lozärner Fasnacht 2015
It was a Thursday, almost a year ago, when the Wolfman and the Female suddenly rushed my sister Verushka and me to the vet for emergency boarding, leaving us pondering about the reason for this cruel and unusual punishment.
The next day, when they came to pick us up, and we met our new sister, Annebäbi, our beautiful eight week old Bernese Mountain dog we understood their reason and urgency to drive to the middle of nowhere in the State of Kentucky.
That Thursday had already started rather strangely. My humans got up unusually early. They went downstairs to stare into the flickering box, something they rarely do before a much later time. And, on this day, the box made the strangest, ear-shattering noises. Suddenly we were confronted with zillions of odd looking creatures with large man-made artistic heads, called Grinde; scary costumes; streets covered with confetti of all colors and shapes; the scenery: an old town on a beautiful lake. The streets flocked by bystanders, many of them also clad in colorful wigs and fake fur; nothing like I had seen before.
Little did we know about this special day that is observed by the catholic cantons in Central Switzerland. Called, Schmutzige Donschtig (Fat Thursday), it is the first official day of the Lucerne Carnival, which runs through Güdis Zischtig (Mardi Gras, literally “Guts Tuesday” or “Stomach Tuesday”), i.e. the day before Ash Wednesday, when lent begins, people are supposed to put ashes on their heads, repent, behave, and fast on 40 days until Easter.
Wearing fancy costumes in the streets and mingling for raucous festivities has been a carnival tradition for many, many generations. In Lucerne, the city where the Female was born, the Fat Thursday Parade has been a recurring event since 1947 when a graphic artist named Seppi Ebinger from Basel founded the first Guugemusig with a bunch of artistic people. Dressed up in strange costumes and playing vigorously on a diverse assortment of instruments and loud contraptions, they walked through the old city. Soon thereafter other groups formed. Each one is led by a Tambour Mayor, who often is an artist of some sort. Swaying to the sound of sometimes barely recognizable tunes, swinging an imposing baton, and wearing a humongous costume with an even bigger Grind, the Tambour Mayor stomps ahead of the group on the snow covered streets of this central Swiss town.
All those groups eventually became one big bunch of scary, funny, colorful gnomes, joined by traditional guilds, whose often conservative members help organize and finance those now very elaborate events. The diverse themes of the participating groups mix fun and entertainment with satire as well as serious political awareness and biting sarcasm. The Lucerne Carnival has become the largest and most important cultural event of the region by far. The number of groups has been growing steadily. Groups from towns around the entire region now participate in the parade.
Costumes and floats are getting more sophisticated every year. Originally the wives of the band members where responsible for sewing the costumes. Talented creative seamstresses, such as Erika Ebinger and Alice Baumann contributed greatly to the trend of incredibly beautiful costumes. Now, thousands of people spend months designing, producing, sculpting, constructing, decorating, and rehearsing for the new themes that appear in the parade each year.
Verushka and I didn’t know about it because the TV station in Lucerne did not stream the event on the Internet until two years ago, and our humans were unable to obtain broadband Internet access until last year to be able to watch the parade life.
Schmutzige Donschtig 2015
My big, sometimes annoying, lovely sister now is 13 months old. She was recently surgically altered to not have babies! She is showing her dismay by increased affection for our small cat, sniffing and licking her until she gets a decent whack from a saliva covered Verushka. Then Annebäbi switches her interest to one of her large squeaky snake toys, running back and forth in front of that flickering thing, the awful squeaking sound overpowering the program that is reporting—in my Female’s mind—the yearly event of utmost importance when it comes to her hometown.
We spent half the night and all morning watching the Fasnacht. The Female uttered, “I’m glad that I don’t live there anymore, but sitting comfortably surrounded by my clan, watching at home is awesome.”
One of the better numbers in this year’s showed the “Evil Russian Emperor” as the puppet master, having Angela Merkel and Barak Obama on strings. A well made, gutsy interpretation.
The people of Central Switzerland are often regarded as being a bottle short of a six pack. Could it be because they drink a bottle before anybody realizes that a six pack contains more than five bottles?
The Female is the daughter of Godi and Heidi Rüttimann. The couple was never very active in the Lucerne carnival scene, yet Godi was frequently mistaken for Sepp Ebinger because of their moustache, size, and impressive volume.