Each year on the Sunday following Ash Wednesday, Liestal, near the larger city of Basel, hosts the Kienbesenzug, or fire parade. Beginning with the haunting melody of flutes and drums the parade soon becomes a spectacle of punishing heat and light as dozens of rolling fire carts are pulled through the old town. Interspersed among the massive fire wagons are townspeople carrying flaming torches, many that weigh up to 50 kilograms.
Though the festival certainly smacks of an eerie age-old tradition, the parade has only been around since 1924. The fire wagons began in the 1930s but were deemed too dangerous until 1962 when they came back on the scene.
Adam went to the parade five years ago but it was my first time. I was not at all prepared for how intensely hot it was, which I suppose is a little embarrassing. I just had no idea we’d be so close!
Like all other Swiss festivals there were plenty of food and drink stalls and the general sense of merriment was a refreshing change from the normally conservative population. As my brother Matt said, this kind of festival probably wouldn’t get much traction in a lot of U.S. cities due to the high potential for things to go wrong (i.e., litigiously so). While our clothes will probably never lose the smell of smoke it was a solid night celebrating in the Swiss way. To those observing, here’s wishing you a festive yet reflective season of Lent!
Below are a few videos just for fun : )