Rabadan Carnival in Bellinzona

Rabadan Carnival in Bellinzona
Photo: rabadan.ch
Bellinzona is the capital of the southernmost canton of Switzerland, Ticino. It is known for Rabadan, a carnival celebration that has been held for more than 150 years. As Ticino is the only canton where Italian is the sole official language, the Rabadan Carnival reminds of Italian carnivals rather than of Swiss Fasnacht.

The Carnival of Bellinzona was officially founded in 1862. The name of the carnival originates from the Milanese dialect (a variety of the Lombard language spoken in Milan) where it means “noise”. According to some sources, the origin of the word “Rabadan” has its roots in the Crusades.

Crusaders from Northern Italy were impressed by the traditions of Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting. The matter is that Muslims fast during the day but can eat, drink and have fun throughout the night so crusaders began to associate the word “Ramadan” with nighttime revelry and noise. Over time, it has transformed into “Rabadan”.

The Rabadan Carnival begins on Shrove Thursday (the last Thursday before Ash Wednesday) and ends on Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras). On Thursday, the Mayor of Bellinzona presents the Key to the City to His Majesty King Rabadan and the festivities begin. The King is elected by the carnival association. Rabadan doesn’t have a new King every year, the same person can play the role of the King for several years in a row.

The most important days of Rabadan are Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Friday is the day of the Children’s Parade. It is filled with events designed for the youngest revelers. On Saturday, the so-called Guggenmusik Parade takes place. Guggenmusik is a term that denotes Carnival marching bands in Switzerland. Bands from Ticino and the German-speaking part of Switzerland participate in the procession. When the parade is over, they keep playing far into the night.

The highlight of the Bellinzona Carnival is the Grand Parade (Grande Corteo Mascherato) on Sunday. The procession is made up of about fifty floats and marching units including musicians, dancers and costumed characters. The parade is broadcast live in the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland.

From Sunday night onward the festivities begin to die down. There are some events for children on Monday afternoon (for example, a tug of war competition) and a traditional lunch on Shrove Thursday. Most locals have risotto con la luganega for lunch, a local dish consisting of risotto served with luganega sausages.

Rabadan Carnival

Photo: RabadanBellinzona




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