Fasching - What the heck is that?

Well, it is the party that takes place all over Germany before Lent starts. It is the German equivilant to Mardi Gras, or Carnival. The main event is the street carnival that takes place in the period between the Thursday before Ash Wednesday and Ash Wednesday. Carnival Thursday is called "Altweiber" (old women) in Düsseldorf or "Wieverfastelovend" (The women's day) in Cologne, in many places Carnival-"fools" take over city halls or municipal government, "wild" women cut men's ties wherever they get hold of them. On the following days, there are parades in the street organized by the local carnival clubs. The highlight of the carnival period however is Rose Monday (Rosenmontag). Although Rose Monday is not an official holiday in the Rhineland, in practice most public life comes to a rest and almost all workplaces are closed and shops are open only in the morning or not at all. The biggest parades are on Rose Monday, the famous "Rosenmontagszug" (Rose Monday Parade), e.g. in Cologne, Düsseldorf and many other cities. During these events, hundreds of thousands of people celebrate in the streets at low temperatures, most of them dressed up in costumes. Almost every town has a special carnival cry (Cologne, Bonn and Aachen: Alaaf!; Frankfurt, Düsseldorf and Mainz: Helau!; Mönchengladbach: Halt Pohl! (hold on to the pole); Rheydt: All Rheydt!).

If you are going to be in any of these cities during this time, bring a costume, be prepared to see lots of drinking and the behaviour that goes with it :-)) and a bag to collect all the candy and what not they throw from the floats during the parades. Parades are on different days in different cities, so check first. I know Frankfurt is on Sunday, and Mainz and Köln are on the Monday. Almost every city has a parade of some sort and they can be a lot of fun.

Posted by Corinna
Krems, Wachau, Austria
386 posts

Yes, Fasching is a lot of fun, one great big party, no matter if you attend the many public celebrations in the streets, inns and clubs or private ones with friends.
I love the Faschings Krapfen, fresh baked jelly donuts. I will only eat Krapfen during this time.
Fasching, or Karneval, as it is called in parts of Germany, is associated with festivals of the Christian church (wild partying before Lent begins). But it really goes back to pagan times, and was a way of driving out the evil spirits of winter and coaxing the coming of spring and good crops. The ugly, scary masks and costumes were meant to frighten the winter spirits.
''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.''

Really Fasching starts on 11.11 (Nov.11th) at 11:11 AM and after New Years crescendos into the Ball season, the climaxes into the days leading up to Ash Wednesday (Lent), and the more somber fasting time leading up to Easter.

It's a great time all the way around :-))

Posted by Russ
2693 posts

Fasching is also referred to as Fasnacht, Fastnacht, Fasnet, Karneval, and the "fünfte Jahreszeit", or fifth season.

It's a fun time, but a rather adult sort of fun. Children, should you drag them along, should be cautioned that Fasching involves a lot of public drunkenness, urination, and general rowdiness, in my experience, especially on Rosenmontag. I think of it as a sort of annual therapy session for uptight Teutonics.

Posted by Cate
Tacoma, WA, USA
668 posts

Russ, my parents used to take me to the Fasching parades in Mainz, and there were a lot of kids. I probably wouldn't take my kids to events at night, though!

Posted by Gary Mc
Salt Lake City
880 posts

We attended a Fasching party during the 1970's. Being in the military our commander insisted that all his soldiers attending such a party should have a designated driver, good plan.

I remember that there were dancing virgins at our party, okay not really. It was a dancing group wearing afro wigs, dancing I think to ABBA songs. The movie, "Mama Mia" takes me back.

One requirement was that you had to stand up on your chair periodically and sing, "Wir haben Hunger, Hunger, Hunger! Wir haben Durst, Durst, Durst!" Anyone that could not stand up on their chair was cut off, perhaps a little late.

I would not consider it a high point in my stay in Germany but ...

Regards, Gary

Posted by Pamela
New York City, NY, USA
4619 posts

I spent January to June studying in American program in Eningen u. A which is south of Stuttgart and east of Reutlingen. Our little village (which BTW is soo much bigger now than in the 70's!) had lots of smaller celebrations in the local gasthofs. The Fasching celebration along with the pomme frites vending machine and the really tasty and alcoholic apple drink were three of the early wonders of Germany for our group. But, we did go as a group to see one of the parades in Tubingen. I remember lots of costumes and I think I recall that witches carried balloon like bladders on sticks and they would bop people with them. I can't remember the reason's behind them though...maybe somebody else does? It was a great time. Pam

Posted by Tony
208 posts

When I lived in Frankfurt as a teen, my parents went to a lot of the parties during Fasching. They also had several German friends that told them they just went their seperate ways during Fasching. Each one just did did as they pleased. Then after Fasching was over they just went back to their normal married life. Lots of wild parties and fun times. Don't know if that was something that was done by a lot of people but seemed to work for them.

Posted by Neil
Lake Forest Park, WA, USA
365 posts

"Uptight Teutonics"...?

Racial slur or simply a redundant phrase?


Posted by Bill
San Leandro, CA, USA
632 posts


Thanks for bringing back fond memories of Fasching...it is like Mardi Gras in some aspects...but as you noted it is widely celebrated in Germany (whereas Mardi Gras is celebrated in only a few areas of the US). I think there are two distinctly different kinds of Fasching experiences. The big city celebration...and the village celebration...each has its own merits...I personally got to enjoy the small village celebrations around Giessen Germany (where I was stationed in the 60's). Every town has a town hall big enough to fill with celebrants...lots of drinking, dancing and singing...and everyone probably did something they would regret the next day...but it was a day (or night) without consequences. I would gladly spend a week in central Germany during February just to experience Fasching again.