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I never bothered to take any interest in Fastnacht (German Carnival)…until this year. I went to the Carnival procession, because I suddenly felt the need to get closer to this traditional movement...

  F r e i b u r g e r   F a s n e t  - Carnival                                                                            
Start of the procession at Schwabentor

I never bothered to take any interest in Fastnacht (German Carnival)…until this year. I went to the Carnival procession, because I suddenly felt the need to get closer to this traditional movement. 

Freiburg itself has 35 Groups or "Zuenfte" of jolly jesters, witches and devils, so what is it all about? The going story is the one about the expulsion of the winter demons and ghosts. This has been derived from pagan winter rituals prior to the arrival of Christendom in Germany. 

However, an article in the online Narren- Spiegel (German) magazine, suggests other origins of German carnival. Back in the 13th century, when life in Germany (and the rest of Europe) was highly influenced by the Catholic Church, the time before Easter, when Catholics celebrate Christ’s resurrection, was a strict fasting period.

Due to that, people had lavish parties before the fasting started, because there were a lot of food resources, which needed to be consumed beforehand, since they did not have preservatives then to keep all foods lasting over months or years.

Toward the 15th century the festivities took on a regular place with typical disguising and masking games of the Middle Ages with its freak processions. These partially represented the underworld, the opposite to Gods kingdom the place of the fallen Angels. 

Earthly life stood for this world according to Christian believes. And "Fasnet" became the resemblance of the seven deadly sins. The general course of Fasnet was the start of the festivities on a Thursday followed by the burning of the Fasnet spirit on the following Wednesday. 

The Thursday was chosen, because it did not interfere with any religious or other culturally important days in the week. The burning of the unclean was something that was demanded by the Catholic Church. It made Fasnet an acceptable and justifiable fete.  

The church realised that, by prohibiting the celebrations, they would loose people’s support, so they achieved a compromise. Since the Protestants rejected Fastnacht, as they did not practiced fasting, the celebrations only occurred in southern catholic Germany.

 

This is why the south has the most popular processions. However, during the past decades the North has tried to come up with its own style. Fasnet was a celebration of the masses, the simple folk. 

 

In those days the simple folk did not have the means to put together lavish costumes and masks. Initially the processions were mainly manned with fools and jesters, people who were beyond social acceptance.

 

This is why the south has the most popular processions. However, during the past decades the North has tried to come up with its own style. Fasnet was a celebration of the masses, the simple folk. 

 

In those days the simple folk did not have the means to put together lavish costumes and masks. Initially the processions were mainly manned with fools and jesters, people who were beyond social acceptance.

  • Devil, wild man, wild woman (witch) and animal masks

  • "Zottelgwaender" costumes (suit with sawn on pieces of left over materials)

 

  • "Weissnaar", the beautiful aristocrat type costume with heavy bell belts (represents vanity and self-absorption)

  • "Schreckmasken", masks with rough and scary looking faces

 

 

Unfortunately, I was not quick enough to take down the names of the respective Groups. So, if there is anyone who knows the name of these "Zuenfte" on this Page, please email me so I can complete the documentation. Anyway i will try and contact the local "Verein" (organisation) to get more details. 

Last edited 19-06-01

All photos by A. Goss & S. Goss

 

© A.Goss, April 2001