Bachfischet is a folk festival that takes place in Aarau, capital of the Canton of Aargau, each year on the last Friday before the autumn holidays. The event is one of the oldest festivals still in existence in Switzerland - its first mention in written record was at an Aarau Council meeting on September 3, 1526. Children have played an important role in this historic festival, which continues to this day.
Celebrating the city stream in Aarau
The name of the festival, Bachfischet, means “stream fishing”, honouring the Stadbach, the city stream, which, for centuries, was one of the major food sources in the city and the main source of drinking water. The festival derives from the fact that it was customary to shut down the city stream for a thorough cleaning session each year. Then, when cleaning was done, young people would celebrate the return of the stream.
The stream has existed since the 13th century. As is tradition, the stream is drained by a barrier in the nearby municipality of Suhr, where the stream begins. For centuries, the children of Aarau used this opportunity to go fishing, catching crabs and swimming in the remaining puddles. To this day, the draining and cleaning are still carried out in September, which brings with it age-old customs.
On the last Friday before the autumn holidays, the lights are turned off in the town while a procession of singing school children moves through the village, with over 1.700 glowing handmade lanterns, welcoming the return of the stream. Another custom, which has been revived in recent years, involves children in Suhr, where the stream begins, sending boats containing candles floating from Suhr to Aarau.
For those who are interested in learning about the festival in depth from a well-informed insider, there’s even a special guided tour available, with fascinating insights into the customs of Bachfischet. A fireworks display marks the official closing of the festival, along with a single cannon shot, making sure festivities go out with a bang!
Bachfischet lantern parade
The lantern parade begins at 8.15pm and the route takes in the following places:
- Vordere Vorstadt
Plan your visit to Bachfischet
Get ready to visit Aarau on the last Friday before the autumn holidays! While you're there, make sure to leave time to explore the castles, heritage sites and historical monuments - you'll soon figure out that Aarau is steeped in history. Check out the Aarau tourism website for more information about Bachfischet.