Helau! Alaf! Today is Fasching (Karneval or Mardi Gras) in Germany. It is called 'Faschingsdienstag' (Shrove Tuesday or Karnevaltuesday). The main two days of Fasching are 'Rosenmontag' (Rose Monday) and Faschingsdienstag. The pre-lenten celebration ends on Aschermittwoch' (Ash Wednesday).
Fasching is the most common word used for Mardi Gras in southern Germany, Bavaria and Austria. This Germanic word dates from the 13th century and the Middle High German word vascganc or vastschnag (Fastenschank, “last [alcoholic] drink before fasting”). The word later joined other German words ending in -ing to become Fasching.
Some of Germany’s best known Carnival celebrations are held in Cologne (Köln), Mainz, Munich (München) and Rottweil. But Cologne’s Karneval is not really the same as Munich’s Fasching. Germanic Carnival celebrations vary from region to region, with each community often having its own unique traditions. The main event of Karneval in Köln is the parade on Rosenmontag (Rose Monday). Farther south in Bavaria and Austria, the culmination of Fasching takes place on Shrove Tuesday (Faschingsdienstag), like Mardi Gras in New Orleans. These and other differences reflect the long history and local traditions of the celebration, and they are also seen in the language.
Whether the celebration is called Fasching, Fastnacht or Karneval, it is a time to let off steam and live it up before the Lenten period that traditionally called for fasting (die Fastenzeit) and sacrifice. It is this fasting tradition that gave the celebration its Fastnacht name ("night before fasting," "fasting eve").
In the 15th and 16th centuries, amusing plays known as Fastnachtspiele were performed during the pre-Lenten season. Today there are elaborate parades (Umzüge) in the many large and small communities where Carnival is celebrated. Floats and marchers displaying large caricature heads often lampoon regional and national politicians. Another part of the celebration involves Carnival royalty (princes, princesses) and a sort of “counter-government” during the season. The Rhineland Rosenmontagsumzug is an event broadcast each year on German television, similar to the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade in New York. It features colorful floats with caricatured figures mocking local, national and international politicians and other famous personalities or events.
People will dress in costumes and line the streets to watch the Faschingsparades in their towns, or they will travel to the bigger cities for the biggest parades. It is kind of like Halloween for the kids, as candy is thrown from the wagons in the parade and the kids bring bags to collect it. They also throw confetti and other Fasching items. If you are not the type for the hype you can watch the parades on TV, they usually start at 1300 hours and are transmitted live.
At night you can go to the local Faschingsfeier (Parties) where you can dress up and while eating and drinking you can watch the different acts such as ballets, comedy and music. This also get's transmitted live on TV. These events are also called 'Prunksitzung' or 'Narrensitzung' (Fools Meeting) and the comittee is called 'Elferrat' (Eleven Wise Men) and looks like the men in the above photo.
Do you celebrate Karneval? What do you think of it? And I need your input-do you like this series of reading about German Traditions? Should I keep it or is it not that interesting to you? Please leave a comment and let me know. I really appreciate it!