The «Hääfelimäärt»
Ringing in the Autumn Fair
The indoor fair
The «Soggeball»
Autumn Fair Service

The «Hääfelimäärt»

Buying tableware like a hundred years ago

The traditional "Hääfelimäärt" on Bernoullistrasse is as much a part of the autumn fair as the "Morgestraich" is to the Basel Carnival. Here you can buy all kinds of crockery and pottery, just like in the old days. The "Hääfelimäärt" has been held at Petersplatz since 1877. Since 2010, the traditional market has once again come back to life.

Even our grandmothers used to replace the dishes that their families had broken during the year at the "Hääfelimäärt". That is no longer necessary today. Dishes of all kinds can easily be found in department stores and at major distributors. Nevertheless, the "Hääfelimäärt" has survived; indeed, it is still extremely popular. This has to do with tradition and nostalgia. While on the Messeplatz, on the Kasernenareal and on the Barfüsserplatz, new rides are constantly providing thrills for a predominantly younger public, and all that is left of the traditional stalls are the confectioners with their Fair specialities and catering offers, here the Autumn Fair is still as it was originally. As the Basel fairs – on 11 July 1471, the German Emperor Frederick III had granted the then still Imperial German city the privilege of a spring and an autumn fair – were actually large markets where people could trade freely without any restrictions.

Tradition in Petersplatz

Today, this tradition only lives on in Petersplatz. Here you can still find goods of all kinds; here people still trade, buy – sometimes even haggle over prices. It is rather paradoxical that the medieval tradition lives on here , considering that Petersplatz was opened late for the Autumn Fair. A decree of the Basel police department of 4 October 1877 states: "Due to a decision of the Grand Council, the fair will be moved from Münsterplatz to Petersplatz and its surroundings. The stalls and tables will be set up on Petersplatz, Leonhardsgraben and Petersgraben. The sale of earthenware will take place on Petersplatz towards the Bernoullianum, and that of wooden goods on Spalenberg". At least as far as "earthenware" is concerned, this has remained the case to this day. 

Historical picture of the Hääfelimäärt on Petersplatz

Magical atmosphere

Of course, the "Hääfelimäärt" has changed since then. For example, photos from the beginning of the 20th century show that market vendors simply spread their dishes on the ground; today, they create stalls that are pleasing to the eye to encourage people to purchase their goods. Everyday tableware has been joined by originally shaped or elegantly designed utility ceramics, which make wonderful gifts. Porcelain from Langenthal and Roeseler has been in the centre for many years; pottery from Alsace has disappeared. Tradition-conscious Baslers still replace their cups and plates here. 30 to 40 per cent of his customers come to him because they need new tableware, says Maurus Wenger, whose family has been running a stall on Bernoullistrasse for over 100 years. In his eyes, the special charm of "Hääfelimäärt" is due to the fact that all social and age groups mix here and you can have interesting conversations with very different people at the stand at regular intervals. But not everyone comes to shop; many simply enjoy the special atmosphere – especially in the evening, when the porcelain shimmers in the light of hundreds of light bulbs and the market unfurls its very own magic to captivate visitors.

Revival of a tradition

Since 2010, those responsible for the Fair have been trying very hard to breathe new life into the traditional "Hääfelimäärt". For example, in 2010, for the first time in years, all the stands with classic utility ceramics were placed specifically in Bernoullistrasse. Since then, Bernoullistrasse has once again been continuously populated with crockery stands, as in earlier times. Since 2018, an elaborately designed entrance gate has drawn the attention of fair visitors to the traditional market.

To Petersplatz and Hääfelimäärt

Ringing in the Autumn Fair

Since the late Middle Ages, the Basel Autumn Fair has been rung in by the two "Mässglöggli" in the tower of St. Martin's Church. From one second to the next, the fair begins everywhere on the fairgrounds.

"D Mäss lyttet y, wär mer nit gromt (=bought), däm schlon y d Schyben y!" shouted the children of Basel in the 19th century. Today, they sing it: In a songbook for primary school, the youthful attempt at blackmail is made into a canon. Since the late Middle Ages, the Basel Autumn Fair has been rung in by the two "Mässglöggli" in the tower of St Martin's Church, for centuries on 27 October, since 1926 on the last Saturday before 30 October. The children in particular can hardly wait for the moment, because it means they are allowed to use all the rides for free for the first quarter of an hour of the Autumn Fair. Exactly two weeks later, the little bell rings out the Fair again.

But the children are not the only ones who love the old custom. Many people always gather on St. Martin's church square or in the tower parlour to witness the quarter-hourly ringing. The "Mässglöggli" are still rung by hand today – an unusual experience for the younger generation in particular.


Glove and horn

Shortly before 12 noon, the "Mässglöggner" welcomes the guests to the tower room. He then receives a woollen left-fingered glove from the Basel Voluntary Preservation Society as a reward for his service. He receives the right glove two weeks later. This is how tradition “forces" him to appear for the ringing out as well. He now shows the glove to the crowd waiting below for the ringing, as a sign that the age-old tradition has continued. He blows an old horn so that no one misses this long-awaited moment.

A few moments before the stroke of 12 o'clock, there is an almost eerie silence in the tower room, a tremendous tension. Almost like before the "Morgenstreich" at four o'clock in the morning, which heralds the start of the Basel Carnival. Almost like before the first firework goes off at the Vogel Gryff festival. There, at last, the electric bell strikes noon. The children in the tower room quietly count the strokes. And now the "Mässglöggner" and his helper begin to ring in the Autumn Fair on the two tinkling little bells. They provide their service for a quarter of an hour. From one second to the next, the.

The indoor fair

View into the dark Super 89's exhibition hall, from which colorful rides shine out.

The legendary indoor fair lives on

The indoor fair – today an integral part of the Basel Autumn Fair – looks back on a long and eventful history. Since 1973, it has been located in what is now Hall 3 on Riehenring. Since 2013, the indoor fair has been reviving the golden age of the 1980s.

In 1913, the Basel Autumn Fair was also held for the first time in Kleinbasel, at the old Baden railway station. In the following years, the Autumn Fair had to make way again and again for the expanding Mustermesse and was finally also held in a hall for the first time in 1927 (cf. M. Fürstenberger/E. Ritter 1971, p. 113).

From the 1940s onwards, the Autumn Fair was located in Muba Halls 8 and 8a. Businesses like the caterpillar track, a chain flyer and an anatomical museum attracted visitors back then.

In 1973, the indoor fair moved to what is now Hall 3 on Riehenring, where it became an integral part of the Basel Autumn Fair. In the 1980s, the indoor fair experienced its heyday. With extraordinary attractions like the Café Rutschbahn and rides like the flying carpet, it became a crowd puller for the young and the young at heart.

From 1997 to 2012, the indoor fair no longer had a fixed location due to structural changes. But since 2013, the legendary indoor fair in Hall 3 has been experiencing a revival. Under the slogan “Super 80s”, visitors are invited to experience the indoor fair as it was in its heyday 30 years ago.

to the hall fair

The «Soggeball»

Hand-knitted socks and warm food at the “Soggeball”

The exhibitors of the Basel Autumn Fair are invited to the traditional "Soggeball". The event is a sign of thanks and appreciation. The hand-knitted socks that are distributed during the evening give the ball its name.

The tradition of the "Soggeball" originated in the 1930s, when a Bible messenger was commissioned to visit the exhibitors of the Basel Autumn Fair and to present them with little booklets of the Bible and tracts. These encounters gave rise to the desire for an evening event for the exhibitors and their employees. So, the Basel Bible Society invited them to soup, bread and cocoa. The idea was to bring some warmth and comfort to those working in the wind and weather.

Since then, the Basel Bible Society has invited the exhibitors of the Basel Autumn Fair to the “Soggeball” every year. The festive evening, which is prepared by numerous helpers, consists of a dinner, musical performances, games and testimonies on the theme of faith. The event gets its name from the hand-knitted socks that are knitted throughout the year and given out as a traditional gift during the evening. The traditional event is a sign of thanks and appreciation to the exhibitors and their employees. The Basel Bible Society is not primarily concerned preaching the word of God, but rather with showing charity and appreciation to others that is anchored in the Christian faith. The “Soggeball” is the responsibility of a team of volunteers and is kept going thanks to generous donations.

Autumn Fair Service

Utumn fair service

Every year on the second Sunday of the Autumn Fair, an ecumenical Autumn Fair service is held for  exhibitors, and all interested visitors are welcome to attend. Eveline Saoud (Reformed) is on duty as fair priest for the exhibitors and market traders, not only at the service but also throughout the Autumn Fair.