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It begins on the Monday after Ash Wednesday at precisely Groups of fifers and drummers in charivari costumes and masks with small headlights start moving through the dark centre of town while playing their carnival tunes.
The Cliquen , or carnival cliques, carry transparent lanterns made from wood and canvas, most of them over three meters high. The light from within illuminates the carved-out silhouette of an event which has marked the past year. The marches played are popular tunes from previous decades, with new ones added from time to time. The origins of Basel's Fasnacht are rather obscure, partly because of the terrible earthquake in the year which destroyed large parts of the city and many official archives.
The argument escalated into a blood bath and the local citizens chased off the noblemen, killing four of them in the process. It remains unclear exactly why Carnival starts one week later in Basel than elsewhere in Switzerland or Germany. The common explanation is that after the Reformation in , Basel continued celebrating its Fasnacht, while the other regions officially stopped.
It is said, that to differ from the Catholic customs, Fasnacht was scheduled one week later starting in There are no documents from this era supporting this theory, and the resolutions from were not quoted until years later. Historians note that the Catholic carnival date was rescheduled six days earlier in in the Council of Benevento , because the Sundays were excluded from the day fasting period before Easter, making Ash Wednesday the first day of Lent.
From then until the 16th century, the two carnival dates existed. Afterwards, only this second carnival was celebrated in Basel. The History of the Basler Fasnacht.