Fasching, German for 'Carnival' is a celebration held annually about 40 days before Easter - the start of Lent. Jam filled doughnuts - called Krapfen in German - of a multitude of colours, flavours and toppings become available at this time in bakeries, the local deli and supermarkets. It is then distributed by people dawning on crazy costumes, coloured wigs and generally, having a great time. There's loads of beer but unlike Oktoberfest, there are few 1 litre beer mugs to be seen. Instead, beer is drunk directly from bottles.

What we have also learnt, apart from the availability of Krapfen during the Fasching period was the common practice of ladies shearing off neckties of their gentlemen co-workers on the Thursday. Being forewarned of this, it was also commonplace to not see any neckties worn at the German workplace all day Thursday.

This year, we were invited by Robert, a German friend to join his two teenage children and 20,000 other villagers to experience the Fasching parade and celebrations in the village of Vagen. He lives in the area and tells us that the village has been in existance since the 1200's and today, has about 1500 inhabitants. In fact, the newest house in the villeage is at least 500 years old. A community of several villages in the area, organises the annual event and take turns to host the parade. This year, it was Vagen's turn!

The parade took about 90 minutes for each round to be completed. Each entrant group had to depict an event which occured during the year. You could just see it in the amount of fun entrants had, in being part of and displaying their entry.

 

There's a different, warmer side to the German people
Perhaps the most significant experience was a much better understanding of how things came about, as we had Robert to keenly explain the how and why things came about.

During the year, a young Bear ran rampant in the forest within the region covered by Vagen. The villagers hunted and killed the animal, albeit out of fear for their own lives. Some of the people in the parade, wore bear suits to signify this event. Another story was about three wolves, which had also been stalking the area, helping themselves to the local sheep and chicken. However, they were seen between two towns separated by an Autobahn, it was thought that the wolves would eventually be roadkill, so the hunt for it stopped. The town folk took bets on when the wolves would succum to the pressure of an oncoming truck. I'm sure you'll note the number of people dressed up like wolves to highlight this.

Beyond this, global and regional events of the past year shaped many of the float themes; BP's Deepwater Horizon Oil Rig tragedy, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's many scandals, the dioxin tainted chicken feed issues in Germany and many more were depicted, albeit with a twist of fun for good measure. We saw a rare warm and fun side of the Germans en masse.

Folks, old and young alike joined in, not only by participating in building and operating the vehicles on parade, but also in dressing up even in the audience. The effort that went into the detail of the vehicles simply shows their meticulous nature, at work and at play. We felt honoured to be among the crowd, celebrating in the craziness and as the only obvious foreigners in town. Besides, they were all more than happy to have their pictures taken - in costume of course - simply at the lifting of our cameras. We had a truly enjoyable day.

Apart from themed floats in the parade, we also saw a few social clubs - football, ski and the local hunting club to name a few. We understood that the clubs use this event for fund raising too, hoping to raise enough funds to keep the club going for the members for the remainder of the year.

In 2011 Fasching commenced on March 1st, concluding on March 8th, 2011. It is celebrated all over Germany, more notably in the city of Cologne and Berlin but perhaps the most famous celebrate is the Carnevale in Venice, Italy where people down on robes of the noble and the Venetian Mask! Of course, one can not forget the Mardi Gras in Rio de Jenerio, also celebrated in parallel.

We hope you enjoy the pictures!

Jeanette and Raymond Han
March 2011.
Munich, Germany