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To all carnival carpers: how to get through the insane days

Martin Rupf
Zurich, on 01.03.2022

The masked madness has been let loose. Seven ways to survive the so-called «fifth season» without suffering too much damage.

For Fasnacht fans, the «fifth season», meaning the days between Fat Thursday and Ash Wednesday, are the highlight of the year. Sporting costumes, wearing makeup and playing music (yes, there are people who consider blowing into trumpets and beating drums music), the carnival-goers parade through the streets in the attempt to drive away winter. Whether or not this is effective has yet to be proven.

Many find carnival a pain in the butt. Others have the name of their marching band (Gugge) tattooed on it.
Many find carnival a pain in the butt. Others have the name of their marching band (Gugge) tattooed on it.

What has been proven is that carnival manages to drive away lots of people. While carnival guilds are as die-hard as they come, so are the carnival haters. Personally, I wouldn’t call myself a carnival hater. However, the hustle and bustle doesn’t speak to me (at least not when I’m sober, as described below). By no means do I want to ruin the fun for all the cliques and bands with their funny names. So, instead, here are seven hacks that’ll help you join them instead of beating them – and maybe even have a little fun doing it.

1. Do it for the kids: keep calm and carry on

What’s that saying? «See the world through the eyes of a child». My wife and I aren’t carnival-goers. But our kids love to dress up. This year – after a two-year pandemic break – they were really looking forward to the kid’s carnival at school. Carnival, or Fasnacht, is like Halloween (I know, this analogy is bound to enrage quite a few Fasnacht fans): most kids think it’s great. What does this mean for parents? Grin and bear it and hope that the fascination will wear off or, at best, turn into aversion. At least that’s what happened to our nine-year-old son on Sunday. He finds «the whole thing just so cringe».

But bear in mind that taking part could also backfire. Namely, if your kids get infected with the carnival bug and join marching band.

When parents are infected by their children’s carnival fever.
When parents are infected by their children’s carnival fever.

2. Unleash your creativity

Tap into your kids’ carnival euphoria to live out your creative side. That’s what I did on a Sunday morning, when I got busy with aluminium foil, glue and cardboard. Yes, the result is debatable. However, I did receive a few admiring glances during the street carnival. This really boosted my sense of belonging to the greater carnival family.

My lightning costume: Not what you’d call beautiful. So perfect for Fasnacht.
My lightning costume: Not what you’d call beautiful. So perfect for Fasnacht.

3. Dress up beyond recognition

If you’re like me, you’ll always feel like a bit of a fool or find others cringeworthy. In this case, it’s best to go with a costume that will leave you unrecognisable. Unfortunately, Covid has decided to take a break just when we’re in desperate need of a mask. But wearing a decent costume and speaking with a disguised voice will save you from being recognised. «Martin? Nah, I don’t know him, but he doesn’t sound like the kind of guy who’d take part in carnival!»

Dressing up beyond recognition.
Dressing up beyond recognition.

4. Make your claim

Wear a T-shirt to carnival that says: «I hate carnival. It brings out all the amateur drinkers.» The advantage? Your message is bound to spark conversations, which is a great occasion to test how far carnival-goers' humour stretches.

Sometimes it doesn’t always require words to get your message across.
Sometimes it doesn’t always require words to get your message across.

5. Give them a taste of their own medicine

You could also try taking the stage as a one-woman or one-man «Schnitzelbank» and give them a good roasting. In other words, make fun of them in rhymes. This could be an interesting experiment to see whether carnival-goers are receptive to this kind of meta experience.

6. Masquerade balls are better than any dating app

Tried and failed with all kinds of dating platforms including Tinder? Don’t worry. A masquerade ball is teeming with specimens wanting to mate. And the best part? Thanks to that carnival makeup or mask, you won’t be fully aware of what you’re getting yourself into. And by the time the masks come off, it will probably be the point of no return anyway. Should this carnivalication result in spawning a child despite taking all precautions, you can at least claim to have done your bit to save an endangered tradition.

Cupid also likes to get up to mischief at Fasnacht.
Cupid also likes to get up to mischief at Fasnacht.

7. Drinking isn’t the solution, but it can be helpful.

The last tip is as trivial as it is obvious: lots and lots of alcohol. Four beers and eight Jägermeisters later and you’re bound to find the caterwauling of the Guggenmusig strangely «funky», your neighbour dressed up as Smurfette strangely «racy» and the hustle and bustle on the village square «a really nice tradition and a great opportunity to get to know fun people». But one thing’s guaranteed. Your hangover will be horrific and painful. So what other options are there? Well, just stay at home.

Feel like new with witches brew. Caution, it might make you spew.
Feel like new with witches brew. Caution, it might make you spew.

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Half-Danish dad of two and third child of the family, mushroom picker, angler, dedicated public viewer and world champion of putting my foot in it.


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