Mittwoch, 9. März 2011

The Travelogue, Part VI - Germany: Fasnacht

Despite being the furthest away from being a grand exotic place, my hometown has something quite unique to offer: Fasnacht.

These are inspired by Austrian Krampus costumes
While carnival is celebrated in many countries (such as famously Venice and Brazil), Alemannian Fasnacht is much closer to its origins. Having its roots in pagan festivals to exorcise winter and herald the coming of spring, much of the ancient spirit has survived; unlike the carnivals in Rio de Janeiro or Cologne, the majority of costumes still draw their inspiration from the haunting and the sinister. With christianization these traditions had been canalized into something more palatable to the church, and Fasnacht became a fest to use up perishable foods before Lent, giving people time to indulge and celebrate before a time of hardship.

"Saubachgeischter" climb everything

Over the centuries, new influences have found their way into the traditional mixes, and style elements from the baroque era, Napoleonic times and modern periods have been added. Still today, new "Zuenfte" spring up every year or so, while the ones that are hundreds of years old still remain.

Zunft originally meant "guild", and they are pretty much run as such. All members wear the same costume every year, and usually have various gatherings throughout the year for marching band practice and general merriment (and the occasional business deal). Many regulations can surround memberships, such as that it can only be passed on to the eldest son, which makes affiliation with a Zunft quite a tradition-laden affair. The traditional costumes are all hand made and very expensive (especially the carved wooden masks) and can cost Zunft members several thousand euros.

Baroque style costumes
While Fasnacht starts officially on the 11th of November, the actual party happens in late February and lasts for about a week, during which the inner cities are filled with costumed revellers. Public drinking and pranks are openly encouraged, with many of the bigger companies handing out free beer and food. The Zuenfte march to the schools and tie down the teachers, officially releasing the students into carnival, who then join the street party in town. Fasnacht-Kisses are given to anyone who comes along, and needless to say, the week-long party often produces unexpected aftermaths in November.

Below are some snapshots and a video from the Sunday parade.

"Gelbfuessler" - Yellow Feet
One of the newer, Predator inspired Zunft
New group, old style.
Lots of groups make their costumes entirely themselves
Parodies of existing uniforms or characters are common

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