Fasching season, also known as the “crazy season” or “fifth season,” is a time for parties, dances, funny speeches and parades.
People who like to dance can have fun at a “Maskenball” (masquerade ball) or “Faschingstanz” (Fasching dance). Many of those take place in community halls, culture centers and sports gyms in Kaiserslautern and villages of the KMC. Visitors are encouraged to dress up in costumes; if they are not in disguise, they have to pay a higher admission fee. Traditionally, women can show up to these dances and balls all by themselves, without a male escort. They are even the ones who ask the men for a dance. And the men better not say “No.”
Depending on the area, the “fifth season” has different names: in the Pfalz it’s called “Fassenacht” or “Fastnacht,” in Bavaria it’s “Fasching,” and in the Cologne area it’s “Karneval.”
Fasching officially begins at 11:11 a.m. on the 11th day of the 11th month and ends Ash Wednesday, which this year is Feb. 6.
Another 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.
***image2***Carnival clubs are represented by a Fastnacht princess or prince. Every year, a new princess or prince is elected and usually get crowned New Year’s night.
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 und 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 had to renounce meat, opulent meals and festivities.
The main days of the carnival season are Altweiberfasching (old women’s Fasching) Jan. 31, Rose Monday on Feb. 4 and Fat Tuesday on Feb. 5.
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 is in Ramstein-Miesenbach Feb. 5.