Women storm city halls, cut ties Thursday

Petra Lessoing
Kaiserslautern American

***image1***Special Fasching event gives females power

Thursday is the day when men have to beware of women. It’s one of the craziest days during Fasching season called “Altweiberfasching,” which literally translated means “old women’s Fasching.”

The event always is observed the Thursday before Rose Monday. Traditionally, females dress as old women or witches. They gather up, walk down the streets, sing songs and in some towns they storm the town halls. They 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, which means they cut 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. 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.

***image2***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 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 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 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 important 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-Miesenbach, at 11:11 a.m. Thursday, women in disguise storm the Rathaus (town hall) and capture men. They take them outdoors and tie them to the “Narrenbrunnen,” or fool’s fountain. Then they cut the men’s tie and for the fee of €1.11 or more, captives will be set free again.