by Petra Lessoing
435th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Thursday is the day when men should beware of women.

In Ramstein-Miesenbach, at 11:11 a.m., women in disguise will storm the Rathaus (town hall) and capture its men. They will take them outdoors and tie them to the Narrenbrunnen, or fool’s fountain. They will then cut off the men’s ties and for a fee of €1.11 or more, captives will be set free again.

Thursday is considered to be one of the craziest days during the Fasching season – Altweiberfasching, which literally translated means “old women’s Fasching.”

The event is always observed the Thursday before Rose Monday. Traditionally, women dress up as old women or witches. They gather together, walk down the streets, sing songs and, in some towns, storm the town halls.

The women constantly look for victims – men wearing ties. As soon as they see a man with a tie – on the street, in a store, in an office – they get out a pair of scissors and “attack” the man, cutting off his tie.

Depending on the area where the tie cutting is performed, the woman might ask the man to either buy her a drink or lose the tie, or she cuts the tie and kisses the man.

Women are allowed to act crazy that day and have fun without their “better halves.”

The tradition of women participating in Fasching goes back to the 15th century.

 During sermons, priests would complain about the exchange of clothes between women and men. In 1558, the city council of Überlingen at Lake Constance was forced to prohibit women’s Fasching celebrations in female taverns and dormitories because of the women’s indecent behavior. But the women insisted on their female rights, such as drinking and dancing during specific Fasching days.

Altweiberfasching also marks the status of women in the 15th and 16th centuries. Wives had well-defined rights, since they were the budget keepers.

During the crazy season, they sat in judgment of other women who didn’t clean the house or didn’t take care of the children. Later, in several towns in southern Germany, it became customary to sit in judgment of men.

Women usually met in the conference rooms of town halls. That’s why nowadays women still “storm” the town halls on Altweiberfasching to take control and become fully liberated as on no other day.

In the 17th century, in the Münstertal valley in the Alsace area in France, women walked through the streets with a decorated billygoat, which symbolized fertility, and a horse carrying two kegs of wine. Men weren’t even allowed to observe this procedure from their windows.

If a man risked entering a tavern, where females often celebrated, he was captured or his hat was taken away from him, and only by buying wine did he get it back.

In Köln, which is one of the main locations to celebrate Altweiberfasching and street carnival, women started protesting against the male government in the 1880s. The three most important figures of Fasching in Köln – the prince, the peasant and the virgin, who actually is a man dressed as woman – officially open Köln’s street carnival.

During the opening session, the lord mayor calls out the official carnival shout “Kölle Alaaf.” Then, it’s up to the women to start their hunt.

Traditionally, women who cut ties that day hang them up as trophies. And men don’t always notice the attack on time, because any woman can cut the tie, not only those in disguise.

Kill-joys won’t wear a tie that day or will instead choose to wear an old tie they don’t mind being destroyed.