Celebrate Fasching: Germany's biggest bash

  • Published
  • By Iris Reiff
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Most people think Germany's biggest bash is "Oktoberfest" in Munich, but it isn't.

Fasching is Germany's version of Mardi Gras and involves more celebrating than any other bash in Germany. This year, it kicks off 11 minutes past the 11th hour Feb. 16 and runs until Feb. 21.

Fasching, or Fastnacht, is the foolish or silly season during which parades are held and thousands of clubs host costume balls, dances and Kappensitzungen, or fun sessions.

Popular celebrations occur in the Rhineland close to base and begin on "Fat Thursday" Feb.16 with Weiberfastnacht, or Ladies Fasching.

This day is devoted to ladies in Germany. The women dress up in colorful costumes and walk from door to door pulling jokes on people, especially local politicians. Fasching particpants are also out during this time to paint peoples' faces and offer them a drink for a small fee.

In many towns, such as Bitburg, Wittlich and Speicher, it is a tradition for the ladies to "capture" the local Rathaus, or city hall, and take the city key from the mayor. This always happens at 11:11 a.m. The "intruders" often will set up a ladder and climb through the window into the Rathaus as is always the case in Wittlich. Once the ladies seize the key, they are in charge of the town for that day. Typically a band plays special Fasching music, people dance in the streets and the women serve beverages and traditional Fasching treats, including a traditional pea soup.

It's customary for ladies to walk around and cut off men's ties with scissors, so it's safest for men to not wear a tie that day.

A third tradition includes local children standing in the streets of the villages to stop cars. They pretend they will not move unless you stop and pay them a small toll.

Although it is not required to pay the fee it is recommended to slow down and be very careful when driving around the children.

Fasching celebrations attracting the most attention and the greatest number of visitors are the parties along the Rhine in Mainz, Cologne and Duesseldorf.

Almost every village in Germany, regardless of size, will conduct a Fasching parade Feb. 19-21, but the most famous German parades are on Rose Monday, Feb. 20, in Cologne, Mainz and Duesseldorf, and in most cities along the Rhine River in Aachen and Munich. Thousands of observers stand in the streets, cheering, singing and dancing during the parades. In addition, children bring bags along to collect sweets Fasching fools hand out or throw into the crowd.

People will participate in Fasching and masquerade balls between now and Ash Wednesday, Feb. 21, at either local guesthouses or a public spot in town. Anyone can dress up and join the fun. Typically, prizes are awarded to the best masked costumes at the masquerade balls between 9:30 p.m. and midnight.

Celebrations come to an end around midnight Feb. 21, the night before Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent.

Alcohol is a part of these celebrations, so police controls will be in full force throughout the entire Fasching season.

It's best to go to these celebrations with a plan, especially if you're drinking, and remember the 52nd Fighter Wing's responsible drinking policy of zero drinking and driving, no keys if you're drinking and no more than four to five drinks.