Friday, April 8, 2011

Carnival, German-style

This post is two months late. This summarizes what I learned about German-style Carnival ("Fasching" or "Fastnacht").

Apparently the largest Carnival celebration in Germany is in Cologne.

For about a month before Lent you can watch a celebration every night on TV, each day from a different city. Like in Italy, Carnival is people's opportunity to dress up a la Halloween (I don't know how that is in Germany yet). The shows, then, seem to be comedy and music variety shows, which are all more or less the same, and everyone in the audience is dressed up.

Aside from the shows, there are parades. Swabian parades are apparently different from those in other areas of Germany. The groups that march in other areas usually have outfits that look like marching band uniforms, and the Swabian costumes are more like witches. The Swabian style comes from Pagan traditions of chasing away winter.

We went to the Narrensprung (the local Swabian type of Carnival parade) in Ulm in early February. As far as I can tell, every little town has its own troupe that marches in all the local parades. We stayed for maybe 1.5 hours and saw about half of the almost 150 groups. There were two types: those who played weird instruments and those dressed as witch creatures (actually Perchten, I think). The parade was more interactive than any other parade I've seen. Each group had a different, often nonsensical, phrase they would yell, and there was some other word or phrase the audience was supposed to yell back. The programs tell you what to say, or sometimes it was written on the sign each group carries to identify itself. Also, the job of the Perchten (or whatever the things with wooden masks are), besides giving out candy, was to tousle or pull on kids' hair, talk to them, hit them lightly with brooms or inflated bladders hanging from sticks, pick them up and carry them off, or do whatever else they could think of to torment them. That was one way to get candy, so kids had to make themselves conspicuous.

Of course, the wikipedia articles are more thorough.

note: I'm calling all the witch things Perchten, but I'm not sure if that's right

an abduction


Hubert said...

The funny instrument is a
Schalmei - engl. shawm - a very old and trational windinstrument. Famous in the workers movement.

aviva222 said...

So interesting, Today I'll be attending the ME auctions for TV & movie props - need a mask or costume?