From the Art, Literature, Europe Potpourri Series:
The root of the word ‘carnival’ is ‘carne’ – meat – and, traditionally, means the the revelry which precedes the Lenten season, during which no meat is to be eaten. In Switzerland, the ‘carnival’ is called the ‘Fasnacht’ – the days and nights which precede the Lenten fast. The last day of carnival season for most Catholic cultures is ‘Mardi Gras’ – ‘Fat Tuesday’ – the day before ‘Ash Wednesday’
Protestants in Basel, Switzerland, however, have, since the Reformation, started their carnival a week later than Catholic countries. The ‘Morgestraich’ is the early morning procession (it starts at 4 a.m.! in a darkened city) through the city by groups of musicians and members of their ‘cliques’ wearing masks and pulling ‘Laternen’ – large painted scenes which are traditionally critical of current events or politicians.
The only instruments permitted during the ‘Morgestraich’ are whistles and drums.
You can read more about the Baseler Fasnacht here: