Women celebrate Fasching, act crazy Thursday

Petra Lessoing
Kaiserslautern American

The crazy season of Fasching is reaching its peak. Next to Rose Monday and Fasching Tuesday, one of the craziest days is observed Thursday. It’s “Altweiberfasching,” which literally translated means “old women’s Fasching.” In different German communities, different traditions are observed, mainly by women.

Almost everywhere, females dress as old women, witches or men, gather up, walk down the streets, sing songs and in some towns they storm the town hall. They constantly look for possible victims – men who wear ties. As soon as they see a man – on the street, in an office, store or restaurant – they pull a pair of scissors out of their pocket and “attack” the man, meaning they cut his tie.

Depending on the area, in which the tie cutting is performed, the women ask the men to either buy them a drink or lose the tie, or they cut the tie and kiss the men. Women are allowed to act crazy that day and have fun without their “better halves.”

***image1***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 near 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 century. 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 good 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 over the 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 and only by buying wine he got 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 import persons 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 village, at 11:11 a.m. Thursday, women in disguise storm the Rathaus (town hall) and capture men. They take them outside and tie them to the “Narrenbrunnen,” fools’ fountain. Finally the women cut the men’s ties and for the fee of €1.11 or more, captives can be set free.

Throughout the KMC, men wearing ties have to beware of women (who don’t necessarily have to wear a costume) approaching them. And no matter, where women cut ties, on the street or somewhere inside, the ties are collected and hung up as trophies. Kill-joys won’t wear a tie that day or choose to wear an old one.