What’s that? Germany has a Carnival. Damn straight! And they really know how to have a good party.
German carnival is often called Fasnacht and is mostly celebrated in the southern areas of Germany, Switzerland and parts of Austria. Like most carnivals it has its own local theme. People dress in costumes that have a theme of demons and bad spirits, which they believe take hold of the land during the cold winter months, and cause destruction to the life of living organisms.
So you know there are many variations on the name like Fasnacht, Fasching, Fassenacht, depending on the area it is celebrated.
The idea is to get out and celebrate with a parade and party, welcoming, the new season where everything comes to life and brings hope for a new harvest and prosperous warmer months. In essence to welcome summer productivity and prosperity.
“An old tradition in Southern Germany, carnival is the time of the year when the reign of bad spirits of the cold and grim winter period is over and these spirits are symbolically being hunted down and expelled.
By the end of winter, each year around January and February, people dress up as demons, witches, earthly spirits and dreadful animals to enact this scene of symbolic expulsion. What happens in fact is an expulsion of the winter season that symbolises death, silence and destruction.”
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Fastnacht is usually celebrated around Shrove Tuesday, also know as Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras. The tradition within many of the carnivals is to eat, drink and be merry. All of these things are forbidden during the Catholic season of Lent, where penitence is the theme of the season. Most people have to eat lighter, not drink, and be conservative within their night life. For this reason the Carnival and party to live it up large before it is required to be more conservative.
There are various celebrations throughout the lower German-speaking area with the Cologne Fasching being the largest of all. Basel celebrates Fasnacht a week later as non-Catholics, supposedly to mock the Catholic tradition.
Other good places to celebrate the carnival are Mainz, Luzern, Bonn, Aachen, Düsseldorf, Bern. It is also celebrated in Alsace France, Western Austria, and South Tirol, Italy but not as large celebrations as the main cities stated above, which are concentrated around the Rheinland, and German-speaking Switzerland.
Food consumed around carnival are usually fatty ones which are prohibited in the Lenten fasting period. Things like pork products and fatty pastries, mostly using plenty of butter.
If you are celebrating Fasnacht- German Carnival, get on your demon gear, dress as unliked-politicians, or come as a good spirit of the warmer months, and join in the fun and festivities.