June 19, 2013

0687 GERMANY (Baden-Württemberg) - The Swabian-Alemannic Fasnet in Freiburg

Fasnet (Fasnacht) is a carnival celebrated in the towns and villages of the Alpine areas of Austria, Southern Germany, the Black Forest, the area around Lake Constance, and in German-speaking France and Switzerland, wherever Alemannic tribes had settled. It is more a pagan affair, in which the old traditions of driving out winter have mingled with the pre-Lenten celebrations. The celebrants dress as spirits, demons, and witches, wearing heavy wooden masks, intricately carved and handed down from generation to generation. Recurring over and over are representations of the Wise Fool with smooth, serene, pale faces, scary witches with grotesque features and animal masks of all kinds, and masks of mythological characters that figure in local lore and history. The Zünfte (craftsmen's guilds) first began this custom. Today, only the name Narrenzunft (fools' guild), used for the clubs organizing the festivities, reminds us of this historical background.

The celebration starts on the Thursday, called Schmutziger Dunschtig or Gumpiger Donnerstag (Fettiger Donnerstag), meaning "greasy Thursday," which refers to the Fasnetküchli, a traditional deep-fried donut-type pastry. Since during lent no meat was allowed, the meal consisted mainly of Küchli (Strübli, Schenkeli and Scherben) or possibly fish and wine, for "fish wants to swim." Freiburg and some other towns and villages celebrate on this day the Weiberfasnacht, the so called Frauenrecht. On this day women rule, no men allowed, except maybe in the evening for dancing. In some areas it is also the day of the Kinderfasnet (Children's Fasnacht), although children are always involved in all events.

Fools' Guilds invite and visit each other for parades and fun, beginning on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, and beyond Ash Wednesday for the celebrations of the Alte Fasnacht. On Funkensonntag (Sunday of the sparks) everyone participates as the Fasnet is symbolically buried or ceremoniously burned. These fires have been documented since the 15th century. 

About the stamp, dedicated to the balloon flower, part of the Blumen series, I wrote here.

The Swabian-Alemannic Fasnet - German and German-American Customs, Traditions, Origins of Holidays
Karneval-Fastnacht-Fasching - German and German-American Customs, Traditions, Origins of Holidays

Sender: Hsin-Hui Wu (direct swap)
Sent from Freiburg ( Baden-Württemberg / Germany), on 06.02.2013
Photo: Hans Sigmund

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