Fasching, Karneval, Fastnacht, Fasnacht, Fastelabend – actually they are all same thing: Fasching is the Roman Catholic Shrovetide carnival as celebrated in German-speaking countries. There are many regional differences concerning the name, duration, and activities of the carnival.
Different Names in Different Palaces:
- Karneval in the “Rheinland” (Rhineland) area
- Fastnacht around the city of Mainz (‘fasting night’, or eve of Lent, the period of fasting)
- Fasnet in Swabia (south-west region of Germany) and in the southwest of the state of Bavaria
- Fosnat in the Franken region (northern Bavaria)
- Fasching around the city of “München” (Munich) and in Austria
Fasching starts on the 11th day of November at exactly 11minutes after 11am and ends at the stroke of midnight on Shroud Tuesday – often referred to as Fat Tuesday (the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday). Fasching is more or less a Roman Catholic and Christian Orthodox celebration and most Protestant and non-Christian areas do not celebrate it.
History of Fasching is associated with festivals of the Christian church (wild partying before Lent begins). However, it goes back to pagan times, and was a way of driving out the evil spirits of winter and encouraging the coming of spring and good crops. Ugly masks worn for this purpose are still worn at carnival festivals in southern Germany. Karneval can be traced back to pagan Roman festivals, which may explain why Köln and Mainz, two ancient cities with Roman history, have such big carnivals. In the Middle Ages, Karneval gave the people a break from the tightly structured class system, as they were able to hide their social background behind imaginative masks and costumes. Poor people were able to mix with all other levels of society and share fun with them. In those days people would dress up as knights, damsels and even priests, as a way of making fun of them. In a similar way, people these days, sometimes wear masks which make fun of well-known politicians or celebrities.
How Karneval Celebrated?
Soon after Fasching season opens, a mock government of eleven guilds (Zünfte) are elected, along with a carnival prince and princess who basically plan the carnival festivities. The biggest festivities are held the week before Ash Wednesday as follows:
Weiberfastnacht – Thursday before Ash Wednesday. This is mainly an event held in the Rhineland. The day begins with women storming into and symbolically taking over city hall. Then, women throughout the day will snip off men’s ties and kiss any man that passes their way. The day ends with people going to local venues and bars in costume.
Parties, Celebrations and Parades – People will celebrate in costume at various carnival community events and individual parties. Carnival parades abound, it is literally the weekend for people to live it up.
Rosenmontag – The largest and most popular carnival parades take place on the Monday before Ash Wednesday. These parades come mostly from the Rhineland region. People throughout the German-speaking countries will tune in to watch the biggest German carnival parade of all which is held in Cologne.
Fastnachtsdienstag – Besides some parades which are held on this day, you have the burial or burning of the Nubbel. A Nubbel is a life-size doll made of straw that embodies all of the sins committed during carnival season. It is buried or burned with great ceremony on Tuesday evening before everyone partys one more time till Ash Wednesday arrives.
Yummy Karneval Foods
Celebration means special foods.In Karnival time you will find every corner fresh pretzels, hot sausages (Bratwurst) or Krapfen, the German answer to donuts. They may also enjoy mugs of hot-spiced wine (Glühwein), which helps the Carnival crowd stay warm! Finally, try a tasty Rosehip Jam! These jams are delicious and are oftentimes used to make donuts and other sweets for Karneval!