Fasching Germany's biggest bash

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- What's Germany's biggest bash? Most people would probably say the Munich Octoberfest. Wrong answer! 

There is one event that involves more celebrating and merrymaking than ever seen
in Germany. It is Fasching, or Germany's version of Mardi Gras, celebrated Jan. 31 through Feb. 5. 

During Fasching or Fastnacht, often referred to as Germany's foolish or silly season, thousands of clubs host costume balls, dances and Sitzungen, or sessions, with all events starting off at 11 minutes past the 11th hour. 

Fasching is observed differently depending on the part of the country, but there is no doubt that the most popular celebrations occur in the Rhineland, very close to Spangdahlem Air Base. 

Celebrations begin on Fat Thursday (Jan. 31) with Weiberfastnacht, or Ladies Fasching. This day is devoted to the ladies in Germany. The women dress up in colorful costumes often as Moehnen, or old ladies, and walk from door to door pulling jokes on people, especially local politicians. The Fasching fools like to paint peoples' faces and offer them drinks 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 over the city key from the mayor. This always happens at 11:11 a.m. 

Often the "foolish intruders" will set up a ladder and climb through the window into the Rathaus. This is a great spectacle, observed by the local citizens who all have a good time. 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. 

On Fat Thursday, it is customary for the ladies to walk around and cut off men's ties with scissors. The safest thing is probably to not wear one that day. 

A third tradition includes local children standing in the village streets, stopping 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 youth.
Find out more about Germany's silly season, such as the famous Rose Monday parades and Fasching celebrations, in upcoming editions of The Saber Herald.