As I told you that we don’t celebrate Halloween in Europe, here are some facts about Karneval, the event when we wear costumes:
Karneval/Fastnacht – Mardi Gras in Germany
Germans call the pre-Lenten Carnival season die närrische Saison (“the foolish season”) or die fünfte Jahreszeit (“the fifth season”). Except for Munich’s Oktoberfest, it is the one time of year when many normally staid Germans (and Austrians and Swiss) loosen up and go a little crazy. Fastnacht or Karneval is a “movable feast” (ein beweglicher Festtag) that depends on the date of Easter (Ostern). The official start of the Fasching season is either January 7 (the day after Ephiphany, Dreikönige) or the 11th day of the 11th month (Elfter im Elften, Nov. 11), depending on the region. That gives the Carnival guilds (Zünfte) three to four months to organize each year’s events (Carnival balls, parades, royalty, etc.) leading up to the big bash in the week before Ash Wednesday (Aschermittwoch), when the Lenten season (die Fastenzeit) begins.
Carnival in Rio is probably the world’s most famous. In the U.S., New Orleans is well known for Mardi Gras. While that former French possession is one of the few cities in the United States with a major Carnival celebration, almost all of the Catholic regions and cities across the German-speaking world (and the rest of Europe) celebrate Mardi Gras in a big way. Only a few Protestant areas in northern and eastern Germany also observe Karneval. Some of Germany’s best known celebrations are held in Cologne (Köln), Mainz, Munich (München) and Rottweil. But Cologne’sKarneval is not really the same as Munich’s Fasching. Germanic Carnival celebrations vary from region to region, sometimes even taking place at different times! (The Fasnacht event in Basel, Switzerland happens a week after most other Carnivals.) The main event of Karneval in Köln is the parade on Rosenmontag (Rose Monday). Further south in Bavaria and Austria, the culmination of Fasching takes place on Shrove Tuesday (Faschingsdienstag), like Mardi Gras in New Orleans. These and other differences reflect the long history and local traditions of the celebration, and they are also seen in the language.
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