Old Women’s Fasching: Men beware – Thursday is a day reserved for the ladies!

by Petra Lessoing
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Thursday is the day when men have to beware of women. “Altweiber-fasching,” which literally translated means “old women’s Fasching,” is the craziest day during the Fasching season that is specifically reserved for females. Altweiberfasching is always observed the Thursday before Rose Monday. Traditionally, females dress as old women or witches.

The women gather together and walk down the streets, sing songs and in some towns storm the town halls. They constantly look for victims – men wearing ties. As soon as they see a man with a tie, whether on the street, in a store or 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 offer the man an ultimatum: either buy her a drink and lose the tie, or she cuts the tie and kisses the man.

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

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

During sermons, priests were complaining 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 women’s indecent behavior. 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.

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 billy goat, 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 the females celebrated, he was captured or his hat was taken away from him. Only by buying wine did he get his hat 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.” Then, it’s up to the women to start their hunt.

In Ramstein-Miesenbach, at 11:11 a.m. on Thursday, women in disguise will storm the Rathaus (town hall) and capture its men. They will then take them outdoors and tie them to the “Narrenbrunnen,” or fool’s fountain. Then they will cut the men’s tie. For a fee of at least €1.11, the captives may 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.

Kill-joys won’t wear a tie that day or choose to wear an old one they don’t need any longer. 

Several clubs and associations in the KMC will host special Altweiberfasching events. The biggest one in the KMC takes place under the motto “Wickie and the old women” at 8 p.m. Thursday in Niederkirchen’s community hall, Westpfalzhalle. The show band Muppets and a DJ from the Antenne Kaiserslautern radio station will entertain visitors. Tickets cost €10.

The Schallodenbach sports club sponsors a party starting at 8:11 p.m. in their Sportheim. Another party with dancing starts at 8:11 p.m. at the Bürgerhaus in Reichenbach-Steegen.