Carnival and Funken - Two Liechtenstein Traditions

Carnival in Liechtenstein officially starts on November 11th at 11:11 a.m. However the “real” carnival events start around mid-January when the first masked-balls take place. The height of carnival is from “Dirty Thursday” until “Carnival Tuesday," this year February 12-17.

A person with a sign saying "Schaaner Witches" indicating the Liechtenstein town they represent.

Carnival in Liechtenstein became popular back in 1952 when the first carnival procession took place in Schaan. Besides carnival processions and masked-balls the so-called “Monster-Konzerte” and “Guggamusik” enjoy great popularity among carnival fans. “Guggamusik” refers to brass bands, which play very rhythmic music in a “wrong way”. “Monsterkonzert” is therefore a concert where many different brass bands participate in a concert. Usually each town in Liechtenstein has its very own brass band.

Children also get into the spirit.

Ash Wednesday symbolizes the end of carnival and the beginning of Lent. On the first Sunday after Ash Wednesday "Funkensonntag" (Bonfire Sunday) is celebrated throughout Liechtenstein and its neighboring countries. This tradition can be traced back several hundred years. An effigy of a witch, known as the "Funkenhexe" (Bonfire Witch), is filled with fireworks and placed on top of a bonfire. This witch stands as a symbol of winter and as soon as this effigy explodes winter is said to be over. The wood used to build the "Funken" is collected by locals (children and adults) and is then formed into a to large pile. Some can reach as high as 65 feet. In the past there were contests between communities over who can build the highest "Funken." Also, it was common to steal the Bonfire Witch from a neighboring town, which was only returned upon payment of a “ransom” (usually beer).

A crowd gathers to watch the burning of a "Funkenhexe" (Bonfire Witch) symbolizing the end of winter.

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