Fasching 2016 is the German version of Mardi Gras or Carnival/Carnaval. This is the festive season before Lent originally celebrated by Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox cultures around the world—from Rio de Janeiro and New Orleans to the famous Carnavale in Venice, Italy that dates to the thirteenth century. Carnival in Germany (as well as in Austria and Switzerland and the southern part of the Netherlands) has many similarities to those celebrations around the world, including parades with floats, elaborate costumes and masquerades, street parties, elegant and gala balls, copious amounts of drinking, and general merrymaking in the streets. There often is even a king/queen or prince/princess crowning.

Fasching Carnival Facts and History

Called different names (Karneval, Fasnet, Fosnat, Fastnacht) around the Germanic-speaking world, it is called Fasching primarily in the region around Munich. The word refers to the fasting period known as Lent, and the city of Munich really gets into the spirit of partying prior to the pious season of fasting. The season actually begins on the eleventh day of the eleventh month at 11:11 a.m. when the prince and princess are crowned. There is then a break to suitably observe the Christmas season and celebrate New Year (this is the time of year when the famous European Christmas Markets come to life). What is known as the "crazy" or "silly" season of Fasching begins in earnest on the seventh of January.

Fasching Events

The first January events of Carnival in Germany are elegant black tie and gala fancy dress balls held by companies, trade guilds, societies of all descriptions, schools, and sports clubs. After all the more sedate office parties and elegant balls, the crazy part of the season begins. This is the wild Mardi Gras period that culminates in a huge celebration on the Sunday before Shrove Tuesday (known as Fat Tuesday in New Orleans or Pancake Day in England). In New Orleans there is king cake or gumbo. In Italy there are carnival fritters, ribbons of fried sweet pasta covered with sugar and honey. Fasching is famous for its doughnuts (krapfen). This signature delicacy will be found everywhere. It is a deep fried potato pastry often filled with custard, chocolate, or jelly and sprinkled with sugar or honey. Yeast makes it puffy, and it is most delicious fresh out of the hot oil. The tradition of consuming all this salty, yeasty, sweet, fatty food at the end of Carnival time is in order to use up all the food that will be sworn off during Lent.

This part of Carnival in Germany marks the beginning of the Strong Beer Festival Season. Yes, it's another festival dedicated to Germany's favorite beverage—beer. This festival begins with the tapping of the first kegs of strong beer or "bock," a strong, medium to dark brown lager. This celebration occurs for two weeks during March, and rivals the famed Munich Oktoberfest held during the autumn. Other large Fasching 2016 celebrations occur in Cologne and Vienna. Many of the ski resorts in the Alps of Switzerland, Germany, and Austria also host carnivals.

Image: krossbow (flickr)

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