Carnival in Lucerne
Dirty Thursday till Carnival Tuesday prior to Ash Wednesday. The origins of the Lucerne Carnival, the celebration of which practically rules the town for a few days, are marked by the figure of Fritschi, an elderly man with his wife known as the Fritschene, and the Fritschikind, or Fritschi's child.
While the name Fritschi probably derives from Fridolin, the origin and meaning of the figure are not so easy to determine. What's certain is that Fritschi can be traced back to the fifteenth century, when he used to be a straw puppet and probably the symbolic figure of one of the guilds.
The Fritschi family rides in a wagon and has been accompanied over the centuries by a parade. If the parade once symbolized patriotic, historical, or folkloristic themes, it now has a more satirical twist. In the 1920s, the Fritschi group found a rival in the newly-formed Wey Guild, who adopted the figure of a frog as the main character of their satirical parade. Today, the Fritschi parade takes place on Dirty Thursday, one week before Ash Wednesday, whereas the Wey parade takes place on Carnival Monday and the final evening, complete with a monster concert, on Shrove Tuesday. These events are the highlights of the colorful merrymaking.
A major attraction of the Lucerne Carnival are the Guggemuusige, or improvised (masked) bands. They are dressed-up and masked or made-up carnival cliques who play well-known tunes on their brass and percussion instruments, rather loudly and not really in tune. The first of these groups was formed around 1950, taking its example from Basel. In the meantime, their number has increased to a few dozen. Unlike their counterparts in Basel, they do not march through the street in strict formation, but make frequent stops, acting out scenes and mingling with the crowd. There are also many individuals or small groups disguised and playing a musical instrument, or pulling a practical joke to liven things up. The masked balls attract huge crowds and are held in large venues in the evenings.