Thursday is one of the highlights of the Fasching season. “Altweiberfasching,” or old women’s Fasching, is a day specifically reserved for females and a day when men should beware of women.
Altweiberfasching is always observed the Thursday before Rose Monday. Traditionally, females dress as old women or witches. Women meet in the morning, walk down the streets, sing songs and, in some towns, they 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 in which 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 when, 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 women would behave “indecently.” But the women referred to 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. During this time, 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, an in honor of this, women today still “storm” town halls on Altweiberfasching as a way 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 celebrated, he was captured or his hat was taken away from him. 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 people of Fasching in Köln — the prince, the peasant and the virgin, who actually is a man dressed like a woman — officially open Köln’s street carnival. During the opening session, the lord mayor calls out the official carnival shout “Kölle Alaaf.” Now it’s up to the women to start their hunt.
In Ramstein-Miesenbach, at 11:11 a.m. Thursday, women in disguise will storm the Rathaus (town hall) and capture men. They will take the men outdoors and tie them to the “Narrenbrunnen,” or fool’s fountain. Then, the “Altweiber” will cut the men’s ties and, for the fee of at least €1.11, captives will be set free again.
Traditionally, women who cut ties that day hang them up as trophies. And men don’t always notice the attack on time, because it’s not necessarily just women in disguise who do it, but also normally dressed females at work.
Ramstein-Miesenbach’s culture center, Haus des Bürgers, will host an Altweiber Fasching party at 8 p.m. with the band Habachtlaer and DJ Andy. Tickets cost €10.
The Altweiberfasching event in Niederkrichen’s Westpfalzhalle will begin at 8 p.m. Thursday.This year’s motto is “Ällis im Wunderland.” The band The Candies will perform. Doors will open at 7 p.m. Tickets cost €10.
Another Altweiberfasching dance party will start at 8 p.m. Thursday in Erfenbach’s Kreuzsteinhalle. The dance and party band Favorits will perform. Tickets cost €10.
The Kaiserslautern Carnival Club will start its event at 7 p.m. at its club house, An der Kalause, in Kaiserslautern (next to the Gartenschau office).