Traditional Fasnacht celebration set in Helvetia

Many will gather in Helvetia Feb. 9 for Fasnacht, a traditional Swiss celebration meant to scare off old-man winter.

Fasnacht is the Swiss equivalent to Mardi Gras in New Orleans. It is a time of celebration before the beginning of Lent. Festivities will kick off on Feb. 9 with an open mic at 3 p.m. in the Star Band Hall.

The Helvetia Mask Museum and General Store will be open all day, and at 8:30 p.m. the Candlelight Parade will fill the roads of Helvetia.

It is encouraged that those who attend should craft a mask intended to scare off Old Man Winter. Many participants spend days designing their masks out of paper mache to wear for the candlelight parade and masked ball.

“Many people come year after year and some come from afar just to see what it is all about,” Helvetia resident Eleanor Betler said.

The masked ball square dance will get underway around 9 p.m. and begin with the judging of costumes. Admission charge for the dance is $10 for adults and $5 for those of ages 17 to 11. Those 10 and younger are free. Traditional Appalachian music will be provided by the Helvetia Star Band. All dances are beginner friendly and open to all ages.

“Sometimes local yodelers and singers will do a few numbers. You never know what you may experience at a square dance these days,” said Betler.

Like many residents, Betler will prepare for the celebration by making deep fried treats of Hosablatts, donuts and Rosettes to supply the table at the dance.

“It is custom to eat rich foods before lent begins,” she said.

The Hutte Restaurant will feature a traditional Swiss sampler plate special during the day. They will offer marinated chicken, bratwurst, sausage in tomato and wine sauce, parsleyed potatoes, sauerkraut, green beans, homemade bread and butter, curried pineapple, cheese and peach cobbler for the cost of $17. Food will be on a first come, first serve basis.

After an evening of square dancing, music and merriment, the fiddler will announce that it is time to burn Old Man Winter. The effigy of Old Man Winter is then torn down from above the dance floor and thrown into the bonfire, showing that it is time for winter to end.

The Helvetia Restoration and Development Organization sponsors this event. For more information, visit