"Fasching", "Fasnacht", "Karneval"

"Fasching", "Fasnacht", "Karneval"

"Fasching", "Fasnacht" or "Karneval" are all terms used to describe carnival, an ancient tradition which is celebrated all over Germany but particularly in the Rhineland and in the strongly Catholic regions of Germany. Mainz, Cologne, Düsseldorf and Bonn are hotbeds of carnival fun. In southern Germany the traditional Alemannic Fasnet is celebrated. The "fifth season" begins on 11 November and ends on Ash Wednesday. Carnival season reaches its climax in the week from "schmutziger Donnerstag" (literally: "dirty Thursday") to Ash Wednesday. There are major street processions on the Monday of that week, known as Rosenmontag or Carnival Monday. People dress up in humorous costumes or in traditional dress and masks, and join in processions and street festivals. The tradition stems back to the ancient custom of driving out winter.

Carnival in Cologne - "Alaaf!" picture alliance / dpa Enlarge image (© picture alliance / dpa) The word Karneval - thought to come from the medieval Latin carnelevare: "to take away meat" - is used for the Carnival in the Rhineland. Karneval was established as an autonomous Carnival form by the Organising Committee founded in Cologne on 10 February 1823. Its uniformed guards and female soldiers hark back to the municipal guards of the Napoleonic era. The Cologne Carnival traditionally starts at 11.11am on the 11th day of the 11th month. Besides the many Carnival gatherings with their lively speeches, the highlights are the women's Carnival on the Thursday before Ash Wednesday, the Rose Monday procession (the highlight of the street carnival) and the burning of the Carnival spirit on Shrove Tuesday, when life-size straw effigies are burned.

Carnival in Düsseldorf - "Helau!"

Düsseldorfer Rosenmontagszug Enlarge image (© picture-alliance/ dpa) The Düsseldorf Carnival has its roots in medieval tournaments and fancy-dress balls at court. The key figure here is Hoppeditz, a typical Carnival fool, whose awakening at 11.11am on 11 November in front of the town hall marks the start of the annual festivities. The first highlight of the Düsseldorf Carnival is on New Year's Day when the new season's Carnival king and queen are chosen. The city's first Carnival king was elected in 1825. Other Düsseldorf highlights are the old women's Carnival, during which the town hall is stormed by Möhnen (old women), the street carnival on Carnival Sunday and the Rose Monday procession, when it's time once more for cries of "D'r Zog kütt!" (the parade's on its way).

Mainz Carnival

Rosenmontagszug durch die Innenstadt von Mainz. Enlarge image (© picture-alliance/ dpa) The Mainz Carnival has a long tradition believed to date back to crazy goings-on in the 16th century, although the city's first Carnival societies were not founded until the 19th century. The Mainz Carnival Society was established in 1838 to bring order to the colourful, unrestrained jollity and increase its aesthetic appeal. The Mainz Carnival Society is traditionally accompanied by its own uniformed guards, the Ranzengarde. Every year Mainz's "fifth season" begins with the reading of the eleven Carnival laws at 11.11am on 11 November. Other highlights are the Rose Monday procession, the children's masked parade on Carnival Saturday and the numerous Carnival gatherings, which traditionally begin on New Year's Day after the fools' parade.

Swabian-Alemannic Carnival - "Narri-Narro!"

Rottweiler Narrensprung Enlarge image (© picture-alliance / dpa) In south-west Germany, celebrations take the form of the regional Swabian-Alemannic Carnival, which also has its roots in medieval festivities designed to use up perishable foods before the start of Lent. Dancing, parades and plays also became Carnival customs in the 14th century, and wearing simple Carnival disguises became fashionable during the baroque era in the 17th century. Although the tradition disappeared for a time in the wake of the Enlightenment, it was revived at the beginning of the 19th century. The Swabian-Alemannic region looked to return to long-established traditions to distinguish itself from the Rhineland Carnival, which it saw as dominated by the educated bourgeoisie. Having previously been restricted to the three days before Ash Wednesday, the Carnival season was extended in the 19th century. Twelfth Night came to mark the start of Carnival in many locations. The Association of Swabian-Alemannic Carnival Guilds was founded in 1924. One special feature of the Swabian-Alemannic Carnival are its Carnival characters. The masks are made mostly of wood, but also use cloth, paper and even wire. It is traditional for the costumes to be handed down through generations.  Devil figures and fools are among the oldest-established characters. The Carnival witch, a totally new character for the Swabian-Alemannic Carnival, was introduced by the Witches' Guild founded in Offenburg in 1933.

Carnival in Thuringia - "Woesinge Ahoi!"

Karnevalisten beim traditionsreichen Wasunger Karneval. Enlarge image (© picture-alliance/ ZB) Wasungen on the river Werra in southern Thuringia has one of the oldest Carnival traditions in Germany. Established in 1524, the Wasungen Carnival is still unique despite the passage of time - instead of a Carnival king and queen, it has a prince escorted by two female pages. The prince's reign begins on Carnival Saturday and ends on 11 November. The highlight of the Wasungen Carnival is the colourful historical procession on the Saturday before Ash Wednesday, which has a reputation, even today, for upholding popular local traditions.

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"Fasching", "Fasnacht", "Karneval"