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Carnival is here! Masked figures clown around on the roads, alleys and squares and dance the fools’ dance as an expression of joie de vivre and all that goes with it.
On 6 January, the last of the Twelve Days of Christmas, Fasnacht carnival gets under way and ends on Ash Wednesday. The main carnival days are Fat Thursday, Shrove Monday and Shrove Tuesday. During these carnival days, things are a little crazy in Schwyz. A colourful riot of masked figures proceeds through the village’s streets, accompanied by drums and a man with a fool’s sceptre. The masked figures move to the rhythm of the drums and lead people in the fools’ dance. The main figures of the Schwyz masked carnival are the Blätz, the Old Gentleman, the Domino, the Hudi, the Baijasse-Mäitli and the gypsy man or gypsy woman.
At 8 pm each Shrove Tuesday, a large Blätz effigy is burned on the main village square. The flames lick their way up the wooden plinth and begin to consume the Blätz. He hisses and crackles until his head goes up in flames with an almighty bang. This bang symbolises the end of the Schwyzer Fasnacht carnival. Towards midnight, the masked figures tearily throw their masks into the fire and the bells of the St. Martin Parish Church ring in Lent.
One particular carnival custom is the Japanese show. The Japanese Society of Yedo Schwyz was founded in 1857 with the intention of putting on a cabaret show. The first carnival show was held in 1863. At the heart of this outdoor show is firstly the figure of the Japanese emperor ‘Hesonusode’, who visits his vassals in Yedo Schwyz, and secondly, poking fun at certain political events and institutions. This custom of the Japanese Society is regarded as unique. The script is written and produced anew each year. The stage is situated beneath the impressive Mythen mountains and by the parish church on the main square of Schwyz.