Germany’s Karneval

Germany has five seasons: Spring, summer, autumn, winter, and Fasching. Fasching is also known as Karneval, Fastnacht or Fasnacht. The season begins on November 11 at 11:11 a.m. but does not come into full swing until January or February.

The dates are different each year because they depend on the Easter holiday. Festivities go into high gear during the week before Ash Wednesday. The Thursday before Ash Wednesday is known as Weiberfastnacht, a day when women take over city halls and cut off men’s ties. The day might end at a bar or dance. Throughout the Fasching season, women have the right – and obligation – to choose their dance partner.

Rose Monday is the day for parades, especially in the Rhine valley, e.g. Köln and Mainz. Elaborate floats often mock contemporary politics and the parades attract huge crowds.


All things must come to an end. Fastnacht – Fat Tuesday – is the last day when revelers can dress in costumes, dance and be merry before Ash Wednesday dawns. Occasionally, I had the added benefit of celebrating my birthday on Weiberfastnacht or Fastnacht and I took advantage of it. As children, my friends and I dressed up for Kinderfastnacht as cowboys, Indians, clowns or as a Black Forest girl wearing a dirndl and hat.

The origins of Karneval are multifold. Firstly, they provided an opportunity to have fun before Lenten season began. In olden days they took place to drive out winter. Lastly, people dressed in masks to safely mock leaders without being recognized. Whatever the origin, many Germans to this day take the fifth season very seriously…


Photo credit: Mathias Kabel,


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