You may have heard of Mardi Gras in New Orleans or the Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, but are you familiar with Karneval in Germany? Also known as Fasching, Fasnet, Fosnat or Fastnacht depending on the region of Germany, these words all refer to the season celebrated before the beginning of Lent. Karneval literally translates to “away with meat”.
The Karnveal season, also known as the fifth season, begins on November 11th at the very specific time of 11:11 in the morning. The season continues until the stroke of midnight on Shroud Tuesday, commonly known as Fat Tuesday, the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. The first three months of Karneval are fairly quiet before the start of the Tolle Tage (Crazy Days).
The crazy days are held the week before Ash Wednesday and are when the biggest festivities take place. The first big event is Weiberfastnacht, which is held the Thursday before Ash Wednesday. Many people dress in costume and celebrate at pubs and in the streets. Weiberfastnacht is an especially fun holiday for the ladies. A ritual “takeover” of the town halls by the local women has become a tradition in many towns in Rhineland. Women run around cutting the men’s ties, clipping them right in half! The men wear what is left of their tie and get a Bützchen (little kiss) as compensation.
Rosenmontag is the most elaborate holiday during Karneval, which is held on the Monday before Ash Wednesday. On this day, people flood to the streets for the Rosenmontag parades. The biggest and most well known parade is held in Cologne. Candy and tulips are thrown from the over sized parade floats as spectators dressed in wacky costumes watch in enjoyment. You could be sure that everyone will be drinking Hofbräu bier until their heart’s content on Rosenmontag!
Long ago, dating back to pagan times, Karneval was a celebration welcoming the coming of spring. Ugly masks were worn to drive out the evil spirits of winter. Today, you are still likely to find people dressed in ugly masks during Karneval. In the middle ages, dressing in costume during Karneval allowed the tightly structured class system to mix without knowing who belonged to what class. The poor would often dress as knights, damsels, and priests as a way to poke fun at them, similar to how people today dress as politicians and celebrities.
Although we may not be in Germany to witness the incredible parades and celebrations, Bierhaus NYC is bringing Karneval to New York City. On Friday, February 24th, Bierhaus will people holding their own version of German Karneval. With contests, live music and entertainment it is an event that is sure not to be missed! The kiddies can enjoy some fun of their own during our Kids Karneval Brunch held on Sunday, February 26th. Be sure to check out our events page for all of our Karneval festivities and other events.