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What is Fasching?

I’m sure you’ve heard of the Mardi Gras in New Orleans. It’s been celebrated for centuries and is known world wide. However, many people still do not understand what Fasching is in Germany.

Fasching is Germany’s carnival season. It 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.

Fasching (also known as Karneval) is a time of festivity and merry making – a time to break the rules, poke fun at those who make them and then to make your own new rules.

In Germany, particularly in the Rhineland area, the tradition can be traced to medieval times where many countries existed under harsh rules. Kings, princes and even smaller potentates maintained their own courts. In doing so, they flaunted before each other their own pomp and splendor at the expense of their population.

During karneval time, the common people took a chance at ‘living it up” and “talking back to their rulers”. They would make a mock government of eleven people, as well as other officials. A price and princess were selected to rule the country during the Fasching season. Political authorities, high placed persons and sovereigns were the target of ridicule, and featured in humorous and satirical speeches. To avoid persecution and punishment, these antics were played out from behind masks and costumes. Parades, dancing in the streets, masquerade balls and comical skits filled the days and nights.

Karneval festivities have become annual events around the world. Also known as Fasching, Carnival and Mardi Gras, the most famous are located in the following places:

  • Köln, Germany
  • Nice, France
  • Trinidad
  • Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  • New Orleans, Louisianna

Although Carnival in Rio is probably the craziest of all, Germany is undoubtedly the most enthusiastic Karneval center in Europe.

Nearly every town has its own festivities and it is celebrated in homes across the country with the same enthusiasm in which we celebrate Halloween. The Karnevals vary from area to area, but nomatter where the celebrations are held, there is fun, happiness, laughter and a certain nostalgia.

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