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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). In 2008 Fastnacht falls on February 5 (Faschingsdienstag). The official start of the FaschingDreikönige) 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. season is either January 7 (the day after Ephiphany,
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's Karneval 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.
Also see the English-German
Fastnacht is related to the Germanic word “fasten” (to fast, abstain from eating). Karneval is related to the Latin “carnem levare” (to remove meat).
Carnival or Mardi Gras goes by many names in German, depending on the region and dialect: Karneval (Rhineland, former Roman settlements), Fasching (Austria, Bavaria, Berlin), Fastnacht (Baden, Switzerland), Fosnat (Franconia) or FasnetFasching or Karneval, it is a time to let off steam and live it up before the Lenten period that once called for fasting (die Fastenzeit). It is this fasting tradition that gave the celebration its Fastnacht name ("night before fasting"). In the 15th and 16th centuries, amusing plays known as Fastnachtspiele were performed during the pre-Lenten season. Today there are elaborate parades (Umzüge) in all the large and small communities where Fasching is celebrated. Floats and marchers displaying large caricature heads often lampoon regional and national politicians. Another part of the celebration involves Carnival royalty (princes, princesses) and a sort of "counter-government" during the season. The Rhineland Rosenmontagumzug (Swabia). Whether it's is an event broadcast each year on German television, similar to the Macy's Thanksgiving parade in New York. It features colorful floats with caricatured figures mocking local and national politicians and other personalities or events.
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