Fasching a good time in Germany

  • Published
  • By Iris Reiff
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
People throughout the country celebrate Fasching, Germany's version of Mardi Gras, March 3-8.

During Fasching or Fastnacht, often referred to as Germany's silly season, thousands of clubs host costume balls, dances and so called Kappensitzungen, or joke sessions, and some events start 11 minutes past the 11th hour, but typically they start at 8:11 p.m. on weekends.

Fasching is observed differently in different parts of the country. However, there is no doubt the most popular celebrations occur in the Rhineland area, which is near Spangdahlem Air Base. The celebration begins on Fat Thursday, which falls on March 3, with Weiberfastnacht, or Ladies Fasching. Fasching is a time to chase away winter spirits and welcome the warmer seasons.

This day is devoted to the women in Germany. They dress up in colorful costumes as old ladies, referred to as "Moehnen." They walk from door to door and pull jokes on people, local politicians especially.

In most German cities and towns, including 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 occurs at 11:11 a.m. Fat Thursday. Sometimes the Fasching intruders set up a ladder and climb through the window into the Rathaus. This is a great spectacle observed by local citizens. Once the ladies seize the key, they are in charge of the town for that day. Typically, a band plays special Fasching music, and the women serve beverages and traditional Fasching treats.

It's a tradition on Fasching for the ladies to walk around and cut off men's ties with scissors on Fat Thursday. It's probably safest to not wear a tie that day.

Another tradition includes local children standing in village streets to stop passing cars. They pretend they will not move unless the driver pays them a small toll. Although it is not required to pay the fee, it is recommended to slow down and be careful when driving around children.

Fasching costumes

Fasching costumes are now available for people to purchase at most department stores throughout the country. There are some stores that exclusively sell Fasching costumes and related items until Ash Wednesday, March 9. One of these stores can be found in Wittlich. The costumes range from paper or plastic clown noses and funny looking hats or eyeglasses to the glamorous costumes of a prince or princess.

Animal or clown costumes are always popular. Some people will pick a profession and become a firefighter, nurse or soldier for a day. Others create their own costumes out of things they may find in their home or a variety of items found at a store. Many accessories, including face paint and wigs, are often available at Fasching stores.

Costumes are often expensive, but for those people who have a good imagination and use some clothes from home, a Fasching outfit can be affordable. Prices for costumes can range from 50 to 200 Euros or 5 to 50 Euros for accessories.

Many German people who plan to participate in a Fasching parade or ball will consider buying fabric and making their own costumes.

In southern Germany, the costumes are very different from Rheinland-Pfalz region costumes. People wear huge, wooden hand-carved heads, often resembling witches or other ugly looking creatures.

Where to celebrate

Fasching celebrations attracting the most attention and greatest number of visitors are the parties along the Rhine River in Mainz, Cologne and Duesseldorf. Over the years, these events have become an important economic factor for the region, since the fancy parades and balls cost millions of Euros.

Most Eifel region communities, regardless of their size, will host parades March 6-8; but the most famous German parades are on Rose Monday, March 7, in the cities of Cologne, Mainz and Duesseldorf. Rose Monday parades are also held in most cities along the Rhine River, as well as in Aachen and Munich. There people can find the typical big city events and spectacular shows. Thousands of observers stand in the streets, cheering, singing and dancing. In addition, millions of people watch the parades on television. Children bring bags along to collect the candies and sweets parade participants hand out or throw into the crowds.

When to celebrate

People will participate in Fasching and masquerade balls until Ash Wednesday at local guesthouses and other public spots in town. Everyone can dress up and join in the fun. Typically, prizes are given away to people with the nicest costumes, best ideas at masquerade balls or if they wear a mask between 9:30 p.m. and midnight.

Fasching celebrations generally end around midnight March 8.

Consumption of alcohol can be involved with Fasching celebrations, and police controls will be enforced throughout the season. Have safe plans in place for transportation after consuming alcohol at a celebration.