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The Geneva Winter Carnival Kicks Off An Entire Season of Carnivals In Switzerland

downloadWhat makes the City of Geneva and the surrounding areas around Lake Léman so unique is that they have cultural influences from the French and Italians, along with the history of the Catholics and the Protestants, as well as the original division of the peasants and the upper class. All of this diversity and history means that the Winter Festivals in this area of Switzerland are celebrated for many reasons – but one thing that they have in common is that they are all incredibly and absolutely raucously and irreverently fun! And because these festivals either have roots based in the celebration of the coming of spring, the religious meaning of Fat Tuesday and Ash Wednesday, or the uprising of the peasants against the ruling regime, there is no rhyme or reason to when they start or end – which means that they last from January into early April! That being said, here are few Winter Carnivals in the Geneva area you will definitely want to check out:

Geneva Winter Carnival: February 17th- 19th

images (5)The Winter Carnival in Geneva is fun for all ages, as the first two days are devoted to mask making and other activities that lead to the big carnival procession that starts at the Bridge of Bergues on the final day. The Winter Festival in Geneva is different from the other Fasnacht festivals in Switzerland in the fact that it based on an ancient tradition of using masks and general merriment to celebrate the end of winter and say goodbye to the cold temperatures and snow. So this kind of celebration is more about the coming of warmer weather as opposed to the Fat Tuesday and Ash Wednesday revelry and observances in other Swiss Cities that have more religious implications. So whether you are young or just young at heart, Geneva’s Winter Carnival will cheer you up if you are tired of the wintry weather. There are many local events where mask-making and high-spiritedness abound, which culminate in the procession across the Bridge of Bergues on the last day of the festival at 14:40. That is when masked revelers will take to the streets until midnight, when they will give their final howls goodbye to the winter season.

Carnaval de Sainte-Croix: February 21st – 23rd

images (3)About an hour and a half from Geneva is the Carnaval de Sainte-Croix in the canton of Vaud. The kick-off to this winter carnival is quite festive with plenty of food, a guggenmusik concert, and the crowning of the king and queen, along with a costume contest. On the second day of the carnival, there are festivities that run all day long, including plenty of guggenmusik, as is the custom. In case you didn’t know, guggenmusik is music played mainly by brass and percussion, usually taking well-known melodies and slanting them to percussion-driven arrangements, which in turn rev up the crowd during carnival. In the evening of the second night there is a parade through the streets with lanterns and then a giant costume ball with fireworks afterwards. The third day is one of spirited parades with floats, more lively music, and celebratory bar hopping.

Carnaval de Sion/ Carnaval de Monthey: February 27th- March 4th

images (4)Sion and Monthey are two neighboring towns in the canton of Valais, about an hour and a half west of Geneva. The carnival of Sion is 38 years old while the carnival of Monthey is 142 years old, so you can be sure that these celebrations are steeped in tradition. These are more traditional Swiss carnivals, running festivities and parades from Dirty Thursday (Schmotzig Donnschtig) to Fat Monday (Güdis Määntig) and finishing up with Fat Tuesday (loosely translated from Güdis Tseeschtig). There is plenty of food, lots of music (both guggenmusik and modern), many parades with floats, costume and mask contests, fireworks, a grand costume ball, and other activities that are unique to each carnival. Amongst the revelry, there are plenty of events for the children and families as well. Each carnival begins with a formal ceremony of the handing over control of the city to the King of the Carnival – after which there is definitely 5 days of celebrating, with all of the local pubs getting involved. These carnivals are longer, but the revelries go non-stop and sometimes all night. So you don’t miss anything, each carnival has a very detailed website about when all of the events are held – and judging by the photographs – a fun time is always had by all who attend.

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