Season‘s Greetings 2018 from PDF Tools - The traditional chronicles of Swiss Christmas, Part 13

Playing with fire - Chienbäse

Picture: Kevin Dennis Mürri, IG Chienbäse Liestal


Playing with fire ;-)

On a clear winter’s night, the old tradition seen from afar leaves an eerie impression. Like a snake winding through the heart of the darkened Liestal old town, smoke drifts upwards and dancing flames flicker on the old walls of the stately houses. This is the heart of the fiery spectacle.

Pipers and drummers play music while marching through the ‘Törli’, the south-eastern town gate, signaling the beginning of the procession. Music is followed by the roaring of fire. ‘Chienbäsen’ (torches made from pine wood) of all sizes crackle and blaze, illuminating the Rathausgasse alley and radiating a cozy warmth. Brightly burning chariots of fire follow, rumbling over the cobbled street bearing cleverly stacked bonfires. Depending on the direction of the wind, one or two of the spectators in the alley might get a little uncomfortable if the flames fiercely blaze in their direction.

The destination of this spectacular procession is the castle hill just outside the little town, where a large bonfire called the ‘Wällemaa’ will be set on fire. Together with the torches, brooms and chariots of fire, the bonfire is an unmistakable sign to Father Winter to pack up his things and make way for spring.

It takes real skill to make the Chienbäsen, and this is something that is passed down from generation to generation. The main material is the resinous wood of the pine tree, known as ‘Chien’. The torches are best seen when burning brightly in the middle of the old town, making for a great picture. 

The construction of the chariots of fire with their steel undercarriages also requires a great deal of experience. Otherwise, the danger of the chariot getting stuck when passing through the gate or the narrow alleys, or losing its burning cargo, is too great. Every year, the fire department has its hands full making sure that the wooden ceiling of the Törli, which both the Chienbäsen and fire chariots go through, does not catch fire.

The Chienbäse procession takes place on Carnival Sunday and is absolutely worth a visit – in the appropriate clothing and with the required respect.

The team here at PDF Tools wishes you and your family a peaceful and relaxing holiday. We are looking forward to continuing our successful work together and would like to thank you for placing your confidence in us. Have a lively and successful start to the new year!