Sunday, 27 February 2011

The Mysterious Fasching Carnival

Today was a beautiful day! Gorgeous blue skies, though you can't really tell that from the photos. And maybe (?) a little milder than it has been. We decided to go to the zoo (you know, just for a change. I've only been 3 times this winter alone). But, on our way there we bumped into the 'Fasching' near Zoo Station.

I've been wondering about the Fasching for a few weeks. There have been felt-tipped posters up in Kita (my main source of information regarding the festivals and traditions of Germany) saying that the kids need to come dressed up for the Fasching in March. I couldn't tell from the little badly cut out pictures of people dressed up what the theme was, so I asked. Only to be told there's no theme. You can dress up as anything.

So was does the Fasching celebrate? Not many people seem to know. The people at Kita couldn't tell me, and anyone else I have asked was a bit vague. And certainly going to the thing won't help you work it out. So I looked it up when we got home today. Apparently it's a carnival that starts on the 11th of November and lasts all the way until Shrove Tuesday. It is celebrated mostly in Catholic areas and is related to the Rio Carnival. There are celebrations on different days, but mostly things start gearing up around the end of February/ beginning of March.

There were a lot of people dressed up today in the crowd. And not even just the kids. A broad spectrum of age groups. There were pirates, prisoners, nuns, clowns, a family in purple wigs (wish I'd got their photo) and anything else you could imagine. The streets were mobbed with people waiting for the float procession. We decided to wait for a bit and see what would happen.

What happened was a whole load of floats went by filled with people singing or playing music, who threw handfuls of sweets and chocolate out to the crowds. Some people came prepared and brought umbrellas which they held upturned to catch the loot. This also served a double purpose in stopping them from getting hurt by the millions of boiled sweets raining down on us.

I have never seen anything like it. Everyone was scrabbling around trying to pick up every sweetie that landed on the ground. It was frantic. People were even grabbing at the same sweets as kids and even if the kid touched it first, if the adult got a better grip, they nabbed it off the kid. Despite this, it was outrageously good fun. The kids loved it, and were totally over the moon if they either managed to catch something by themselves or pounced on a 'premium prize' like a little Chuppa Chup lolly. Our haul consisted of around about 20 pieces of Lindt dark chocolate, some peanut flavour crisps (utterly disgusting) and approx. 200 boiled sweets. At one stage they were throwing packaged oven gloves from an open top bus. The only thing that stopped me wrestling that off the girl next to me was the fact that it wasn't Cath Kidston.

After our delayed visit to the zoo, we met the Fasching as it was winding down. Orla managed to get a whole bunch of balloons and that made her day. We had a fantastic time, and next year we'll be back with our brollies and our sharpened elbows!


  1. They couldn't tell you??? Shame on them!

    Well, this old Catholic will fill you in then. Carnaval (as it's known over here) is simply a last chance for a party and some good eating (pancakes) before lent starts, which means forty days of modesty and restraint before Easter. Simple, no?

  2. Seems I am surrounded by heathens! :-) Or maybe they didn't think I'd understand the Katholisch/Catholic translation! Anyway, it was marvellous religious fun!

  3. According to my German half, in our bit (where it's called Fasstnacht) it's partly Catholic, partly pagan and partly because during those times when the French regularly invaded the area it was the one day of the year the Germans were allowed to make fun of the French. The Mainzers have been going completely nuts here for months, they take it ULTRA seriously, and B's been telling me to think about costumes since Christmas time (although naturally with three days to go we still don't have any). They have days of processions here but the bit I'm most interested in is that on Thursday I'm allowed to carry around a pair of scissors and cut men's ties off.

  4. Oh, I read about the men's ties bit on Wikipedia! That's hilarious! I hope you have loads of fun with that. Sounds like Berlin is kind of low key by comparison. We may need to travel further afield next year with our upturned umbrellas to make the most of it!


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