How To German – Lesson 03: Fasching
There are a few stereotypes about Germans that ring true. But while it’s accurate to say most of us are always punctual, very efficient (even on vacation), and that we all love to traumatize our children into obedience, the stereotype that couldn’t be more wrong is that Germans can’t have fun. Sure, most of the year we are all grumpy and don’t like the fact that someone else is successful or enjoys a happy life. However, there is a season for jolly, crazy, party-loving Germans. That season is called “Fasching”.
It really depends on where exactly you’re from. We will just go with Fasching, because I say so.
“Oh, what, so you have like one day where you party and now you think you’re fun?”
One day? Did you not pay attention? I said “season”.
When to Fasching
That’s right, the craziest time in Germany lasts for quite some time. Fasching is the Mardi Gras or Carnival in Germany and begins on the eleventh of the eleventh, eleven minutes after eleven. That’s November 11, 11:11am for those of you who are already lost. What? I fucking said we’re punctual.
To some of you this may look peculiar, since you may be celebrating Remembrance Day on the 11th of November. Yes, on the day most countries mourn the victims of war, Germany starts celebrating a season of drinking, feasting, and partying. You can’t even tell who lost the war at this point.
The end of the Fasching season depends on the day Easter falls on, which makes it the only time Easter ever mattered. If you’re unfamiliar with the Christian faith and are used to holidays being on specific days every year, Easter is the one holiday that “moves around”. If you want to know why Easter can’t make up its damn mind, you should research it yourself. All I can tell you is that it has something to do with the full moon, which makes it sound like Jesus was a werewolf. But since Easter happens on a different day, so does Palm Sunday, and Good Friday (I personally prefer Freaky Friday), and with that also the associated end days of the Fasching season. Again, Fasching begins on November 11th (at 11:11am and not a goddamn minute later) and ends at midnight of the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, with the highlight of the celebrations being the day prior on “Rosenmontag” (Rose Monday), which always falls on the 42nd day before Easter Sunday. Sound complicated? Good, that means you’re having German fun. I could have just said that Rosenmontag falls on March 4th in 2019 since it’s the most important day in regards to Fasching, but that wouldn’t be in the spirit of the season now, would it?
Oh, hold on, you don’t really know what the spirit of the season is yet.
Why to Fasching
This whole carnival celebration of putting on masks and other disguises comes from way back when the Pagan’s felt that winter sucked and tried to scare it away so they could finally grow some crops again. In a way, we still hold true to that tradition by yelling “fucking snow, can we just not?” every time winter surprises us with the cold stuff in the middle of February. Also, as it is tradition with Christianity, when the Catholic Church caught wind of people celebrating anything other than Werewolf Jesus they needed to shut that shit down in a hurry. Since forbidding parties was an easy way to get peasants to revolt, they simply put a spin on the celebration. That’s how the reason for Fasching turned from “driving away winter spirits” to “party hard before you begin fasting”.
Now that we know the when and why, it’s time to focus on the most important part: how do Germans celebrate this mathematically crazy party?
How to Fasching
I’m gonna be talking mostly about Rosenmontag, since that is the absolute highlight. Although this is a national celebration, every region in Germany has their own traditions. The carnival in Köln (or “cologne” to some weirdo English people who deem it necessary to rename foreign cities) is the most popular one, which is exactly why I’m not going to talk about it at all. This is my guide, and I’m teaching from experience only. With me, you will be learning about the Fasching traditions from a small area somewhere in the farmlands of Baden-Württemberg.
Similar to Halloween, Fasching is a costume party. Unlike Halloween, though, there’s no sexy costumes involved at all. The traditional costumes are all scary looking creatures, most generally referred to as “Narren”, meaning “fools”. One of the prominent mask groups of my home town was the “Gloggasäger”, which the local Fasching club was also named after. Yes, there’s a club dedicated to the carnival season, and no, I don’t know what the fuck they’re doing the rest of the year.
All costumes have historic origins in local folklore you would have never heard about because it didn’t catch on like Krampus, Brother Grimm fairy tales, or democracy. I couldn’t find the lore of the Gloggasäger, but there’s always at least two of them who, like their name suggests, saw through bells. Oh English, this sounds confusing, let me elaborate a bit: they use a two-man bucksaw on a giant church bell. There we go, makes more sense now.
But who’s to blame for the unpopularity of riveting lore such as these ones:
“There was grass on the roof of the farmhouse and the farmers figured it belonged to the community bull. The bull couldn’t fly so they pulled him up onto the roof with a pulley, but half-way up they decided to let him down”. This costume is based on the people that pulled the bull up, because in this country, imagination died a long time ago.
“A farmer in his work uniform who represents the contemplative person, who’d rather think twice before acting”. Yeah, right, if he’s so thoughtful what the fuck is that stick for? Trust no one!
“This old, hunchbacked woman had to live in a hut on the outskirts of the village, because she was known as an herb witch who’d wish misfortune onto people and cursed their livestock.” Why they’d have to specifically call it “Scheuwiesenweible” when they have a perfectly short name for “witch” is unclear to me. I’ll explain this nonsense in the vocabulary lesson at the end of the post.
What kid would want to be draped in the newest iteration of Iron Man’s suit anyway if they could be a Daiber or a Scheuwiesenweible instead?
But besides masquerading as D-List horror villains, what exactly is happening in the Fasching celebration? A few things. Most notably there’s parades of costumed people from the aforementioned carnival clubs that travel from region to region and showcase their horrendous disguises. This is a time to act silly and wild. Here are some grainy photographs from Fasching when I was just a child, roughly in the late 1990’s.
What a nice parade. Excuse me, I just need to wash the blood out of my eyes.
If you think times have changed since back then, my mom was kind enough to supply me with pictures and a video of last year’s parade. This picture is of her sister experiencing the joy of the carnival.
Don’t let the HD quality fool you. These things will appear out of nowhere and screw with your business. Here’s some dreadful found video footage:
Besides the parades there’s other…fun…things happening around Fasching. Women, for example, get their very own holiday. I tried getting Abby, Lauren, and Jordan from mylifelines on board with this since they’re quite the advocates of women empowerment but…
So I’ll take it upon myself to represent the women in the ways they celebrate their very special carnival called “Weiberfastnacht”. This day is a nightmare for all conservative men. On Weiberfastnacht the women run around with scissors and cut off men’s ties. But they also give those men a kiss to make up for taking their symbol of power. Reminds me of that spring break thing in the States, where you get to see titties in exchange for cheap necklaces; only with fewer risks of being snipped in the nipple. But I think it’s time for a crossover of both genres.
This female domination celebration, by the way, goes back to the Middle Ages where celebrations of Weiberfastnacht meant that women were in charge of the town, leaving their men at home to take care of their children while they themselves go into pubs to drink and party. “What a crazy upside down world that would be”, they’d think back then, “with women in charge and what not.” Little did they know that to this day we’d still only get a taste of women in power on Weiberfastnacht.
I can see now why mylifelines wouldn’t want my submission…
So we covered parades and women running rampant in the streets with scissors. How much crazier could this get? Well, not much, but the schools are involved in the Fasching celebration as well. Kids are forced encouraged to come to school in costumes. Their classrooms play games to bide time until a group of lunatics arrive to “free” the children. This happens after the fools have taken the key to the town from the mayor, of course.
If the school is a multi-storey building, they’ll install a make-shift slide onto one of the class room windows that the kids can use to slide down into freedom. I’m not sure if they still hold up that tradition for safety reasons. But back then people cared more about having fun. Yes, still talking about Germans.
Those are the more peculiar traditions around the Fasching season. The rest of the time it’s just drinking and partying. Obviously the celebration ends with a good old fashion witch burning.
I’m fucking serious.
What do we learn this time?
Here’s the vocabulary and phrase lessons you will need to learn to enjoy your Fasching season. Remember, Rosenmontag is on the 4th of March. You don’t want to miss it.
Let’s break this down. “Scheu” means “shy”. “Wiesen” means “grassland” or “field of grass”. “Weible” is slang for “Weib” which is slang for “woman”. And that’s why “Scheuwiesenweible” means “witch who lives in a wooden hut”. Any questions?
Witch. They could have just called her that instead.
- Zum Himmel, zum Pimmel, zum Sack; zack!
A fun phrase to say right before drinking. You raise your glass “zum Himmel” (to the heaven or to the sky), “zum Pimmel” (to the penis), “zum sack” (to the sack, referring to the testicles), and then shout “zack” as an exclamation before you chug your drink.
- Dem Narren wäre zu helfen, wenn man die rechte Ader träfe
“The only help for a fool is to hit the right artery”. That’s fucking dark. I love it.
- Die dümmsten Bauern haben die dicksten Kartoffeln
This one should be fairly popular by now. “The dumbest farmers have the thickest potatoes”, or in most iterations “biggest potatoes”. This is such a German mindset. “Oh fuck this guy, he just got lucky and who cares about it anyway, the whole game is rigged”. Can’t get any more grumpy old German than this.
But hey, let’s not end this on a low note. Fasching was always annoying to me. One time, when I was working at the mayor’s office, I decided to stay back and work rather than go out and party with the rest of the town. I was just so sick of it. But it doesn’t have to be annoying if you loosen up and just have a good time in costume, being wild and unchained.
Whether you’re a young knight and cowboy, threatening your own father…
…or a mom who won’t say no to a stranger’s booze
Pictures that weren’t provided from McMomstuff were pulled from Gloggasaeger.de