Germany celebrates ‘crazy’ season: Fasching

by Petra Lessoing
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Traditionally the U.S. Air Forces in Europe Band takes part in the Fasching parade in Ramstein-Miesenbach. This year’s parade is scheduled for Feb. 13. — File photo

This is the time when certain areas in Germany celebrate their “fifth season,” also known as the crazy season. Depending on the region, it is called Fastnacht, Fasching or Karneval. Here, in the Pfalz region it’s called “Fassenacht” or “Fastnacht,” in Bavaria it’s “Fasching” and in the Cologne area it’s “Karneval.”
Fasching officially begins 11:11 a.m. on the 11th day of the 11th month. Carnival clubs and associations start preparations for all kinds of events including parades taking place during the fifth season, which always ends Ash Wednesday, which this year is Feb. 14.
Carnival clubs are represented by a Fastnacht princess or prince. Every year, a new princess or prince is elected and usually is crowned the night of New Year’s Eve or around that day. Traditionally, the mayor hands them the keys to the city and thus the executive power. Fasching celebrations officially can start now.
Events such as a “Masken-ball” (masquerade ball), “Faschingstanz” (Fasching dance), or “Prunksitzung” (pomp session) will get announced on signs, posters, or in advertisements in newspapers. There are parties, dances, funny speeches and parades. It’s a time for being crazy and wild, cheering up, having fun and the most important factor, 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 a higher admission fee when entering Fasching events in community halls, culture centers, sports gyms and ballrooms. Some organizations conduct best costume contests and hand out prizes.
There are some special Fasching rules for females. If they would like to go to a dance, they do not need a male escort. It’s even up to women to ask men for a dance — and the men better not say “no.”
A typical Fasching event is the “Prunksitzung,” which literally translated means 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 general. 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 in the back of the stage. After each performance, committee members present medals to the performers.
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 dressed in 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.
The word Karneval also 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 crazy season are Altweiberfasching (Old Women’s Fasching) Feb. 8, Rose Monday on Feb. 12 and Fat Tuesday on Feb. 13.
Rose Monday is known for colorful parades with floats, musicians, dancers and walking groups in creative costumes going through towns.
The biggest parade in the Westpfalz area always takes place on Fat Tuesday in Ramstein-Miesenbach.
The carnival club of Ram-stein-Miesenbach called “Bruchkatze,” is in charge of this parade. They are still looking for American bands, dancers, cheerleaders, scouts or walking groups in disguise, who are interested in taking part in the parade. They should contact the 86th Airlift Wing Host Nation office at 480-2094, or 06371-47-2094 or email
The carnival club’s first “Prunksitzung,” or fun session, will start their festivities at 7:31 p.m. Jan. 27 at the Haus des Buergers.

For Fasching events, people put on colorful costumes and try to be somebody else. — File photo