“Fasching” or “Fastnacht” are words that can be read on flyers and posters on doors of stores, or in advertisements in newspapers at this time of the year.
Fasching means carnival (comparable to Mardi Gras) and Fasching events include “Maskenball” (masquerade ball), “Faschingstanz” (Fasching dance) or “Prunksitzung” (pomp session). The Fasching season is called the “crazy season” or “fifth season.” It officially begins at 11:11 a.m. on the 11th day of the 11th month and ends Ash Wednesday, which this year is Feb. 13.
The crazy season features costume parties, dances, funny speeches and parades. It’s a time for being crazy and wild, cheering up, having fun and, most importantly, it’s the time to disguise. Visitors of Fasching events are encouraged to dress up in costumes. If they are not in disguise, they have to pay higher admission fees at Fascing events. Often, the best costumes are awarded prizes. During Fasching, women do not need a male escort when going to a dance or a ball. It’s even up to them to ask the men for a dance — and the men better not say “no.”
A typical Fasching event is the “Prunksitzung,” or pomp session. Traditionally, carnival associations sponsor and organize this event. Amateur comedians hold, in their local dialect, humorous speeches spiced with sarcasm about local happenings, people or politics. In between speeches, carnival club members sing and present dances. A committee consisting of a president and 11 counselors watch the session from their seats at the back of the stage. After each performance, committee members present medals to the performers.
Carnival clubs are represented by a Fastnacht princess or prince. Every year, a new princess or prince is elected and usually gets crowned the night of New Year’s Eve. Traditionally, the mayor hands them the keys to the city and thus the executive power.
Fastnacht has its origin in ancient times, when people realized that with the start of a new year, spring would soon be on its way. To make it possible for spring to arrive, the demons of winter had to be chased away. Therefore, people put on evil-looking costumes and masks. They danced in the streets looking like devils, demons and witches and used noise-making devices, bells and drums to scare away the winter ghosts.
Through the centuries, the season developed into a Christian ritual. The literal translation of the word “Fastnacht” means “night of fasting.” Today, it’s the time of merriment and laughter preceding Lent, the 40-day period before Easter.
In some German areas, such as the Cologne, Fasching is called “Karneval.” The term refers to the fasting period. The Latin expression “carne vale” means “farewell, meat” and describes the time of celebrations before Lent, when people have to renounce meat, opulent meals and festivities. The main days of the carnival season are Altweiberfasching (Old Women’s Fasching) on Feb. 7, Rose Monday on Feb. 11 and Fat Tuesday on Feb. 12.
Rose Monday is known for colorful parades with floats, musicians, dancers and walking groups in creative costumes. Fat Tuesday continues with parades or street Fasching events. This is also the day when Ramstein-Miesenbach has its city parade and when Kaiserslautern celebrates its street Fasching in front of the city hall.
The Ramstein-Miesenbach carnival association, Bruchkatze, which sponsors the parade, is still looking for American participants. Walking groups, bands and individuals dressed in funny costumes can take part. To register and for more information, call the 86th Airlift Wing Host Nation Office at 480-2094 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.