There it is. A memory. The colors.
I tried. I really did. I watched the parades, yelled Helaaaauuuuu, ran for candy, went to a “Sitzung” and did the polonaise. But I still don´t get it. I don´t enjoy Fasching.
Isn´t it nice that Germans are being silly for once? Well maybe that would be nice, if they were not so, well so, so serious about it, held their Fasching parades when it is too cold to be standing or walking around outside and did not confuse moving around a room in caterpillar formation as dancing.
As a child I felt it was as if somebody had pushed a button. Okay everybody, Christmas is done, get ready for the parade, get the float sorted out, put on your smiles, Merriment Button on ON and HELAU!! Whatever that is supposed to mean. As the floats pass I duck to avoid candies flung at the crowds and curse at people that knock other pedestrians and children down as they lunge for the booty. It just makes me mad not jolly.
I also tried a “Sitzung”. My friend took me to an all evening do, when I was about thirteen years old, with dance shows, sketches and above all speeches: Büttenreden. They were supposed to be funny. Being allowed to be really silly only once per year is definitely not enough practice and as everybody wants to have a chance that once per year, there were loads of speeches. I was exhausted by the end of the evening just watching. To top it off, we all were dragged to the floor and polonaised our way around the hall. That was the moment I gave myself the silent promise: Never again.
Hit the switch and you have “Lachen auf Bestellung” (like canned laughter). Even TV conspires to be “amusing” and televises the more famous Sitzungen from up north – Aachen and Köln Karnevalssitzungen. Famous politicians to writers receive special unserious awards and then are expected to display some of their famous wit in more, yes you guessed it, Büttenreden. To make sure you don´t miss your cue to laugh, the band trumpets a Tatääää (“Tusch”) everytime a joke has been made. I did laugh when when one of the featured politicians reacted angrily about his speech being edited for TV.
Of course everybody likes dressing up. I do too. But if I see one more guy, proud of his originality, dressed up as a Baby or a Something or a CLOWN I faint. I think I hate pink wigs. Children demanding money of drivers at a traffic light as so-called “Faschingzoll” (Faschingstax) does not endear it all to me either. There is no relation between asking for money during Fasching and getting sweets at Halloween. Nobody is expected to laugh at Halloween!
To my relief I have discovered that some Germans feel the same about Fasching or Karnival, quite funny Germans even (Read the alternative Büttenrede by Oliver Kalkofe here). It has nothing to do with my cultural difference. Something about programmed jollines irks me and has led me to avoid “Fasching” in all its manifestations.
Exceptions: I have gone to parades with my children. Two to be precise and despite the expected candy rain, my children have not expressed any desire to repeat the experience. I hope that is due to my influence.
So when Aschermittwoch comes around I am not sad. People pack up their costumes, retire the speeches to oblivion and are serious about being serious again. Push the button: Merriment Off. What bliss.
I am not generally a grumpy person and I do like a celebration when the emotion is sincere. Fasching just doesn´t cut it for me.
On the other hand there was the moment when the World Championship of Fußball came to Germany in 2006 . As the weeks wore on, the weather held, the well-organized and numerous Fan-Meile across Germany welcomed fans of the sport and party-goers alike from all over the world. In all the time I have lived here, I never saw so many smiles for no reason at all but being alive and glad to be so. Germans were allowing themselves to be happy and spontaneous just for the fun of it. Their team lost the Finale and everybody was partying as if that did not really matter at all. And it didn´t.
It reminds me of the fairy tale “Der Froschkönig”. After the spell has been broken, the faithful servant Heinrich comes to pick the prince and his bride up with a horse-drawn carriage. Heinrich placed three bands of iron around his heart, when his beloved prince was bewitched, to stop it from breaking. As they all ride home the prince and his bride hear a strange sound three times and ask Heinrich what it is. Every time Heinrich replies his joyful heart has broken another band.
I think I heard that noise in the joyous cheering of a country, as if it had finally been released from an evil spell.
Here the dates if you want to avoid or try it:
Weiberfastnacht Do. 19. Februar – Watch your ties! Ladies will cut them in half.
Rosenmontag Mo. 23. Februar – This is the parade day.
Veilchendienstag Di 24. Februar – Veilchen? Give me a clue. I thought it was more parades.
Aschermittwoch Mi. 25. Februar – Get yourself to church and be sorry for being so cheerful for a three entire days!
For more info on Fastnacht/Fasching/Karnival locations check out the “Stars and Stripes” travel blog: