The Thursday before Ash Wednesday – or “Dirty Thursday” as it’s known in parts of Switzerland – marks the start of the frenzied carnival season in many towns across the country. Carnival (Karnaval, Fasnacht) is a licence for the normally well-behaved Swiss to let their hair down and celebrate the upcoming Lenten Season in their own unique way.

And at 5am on Thursday morning, Andermatt was no exception. I was woken up to a marching band beating their drums walking down the dimly lit main street and most of the town was up and out dressed up in an array of colourful costumes. Fortunately (or should I say unfortunately what with all the the noise) the bands play throughout the day and so having had some more sleep and with the sun now out, I was able to join the midday parade and take some snap shots.

The whole festival is such good fun, and many of the costumes are full on and paraders hand out sweets and mandarins in exchange for you throwing confetti all over them! Don’t despair though if you didn’t catch one yet, Karnaval is an all week long affair and even for some towns like Basel they have their own special dates too!

From Swiss Info some Key facts: Carnival traditionally lasts from Dirty Thursday to Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent.
Lent is the Christian fast lasting 40 days from Ash Wednesday to Easter.
Basel’s carnival breaks with tradition by beginning on the Monday following Ash Wednesday.
The best-known Swiss carnivals are held in Basel and Lucerne. Black humour has been part of carnival since the Middle Ages when the lower classes seized the opportunity to mock their rulers from the safety of their disguises.