Fasching is Munich's version of Carnival. Americans call it "Mardi Gras" whilst the British have "Shrove Tuesday" (pancake day). The climax to the Fasching celebrations takes place on Tuesday 24th Febuary 2009. Most people will get the afternoon off work so that they can go down to the Viktualienmarkt wearing a silly costume. In the weeks leading up to 24th of February there are also lots of Gala Balls and other Fasching related events taking place.
What is Fasching?
Fasching is carnival season. Originally it was a Pagan festival which came out of ancient Rome or Greece. In recent centuries, however, it has become more associated with the Christian Church. Officially the season starts on 11th November at 11:11am, although I've no idea why. It continues pretty low key for about 3 months. Things really begin to happen in February or March - 7 weeks before Easter. This is the week when people are allowed to "flip out" and behave recklessly before the beginning of Lent, which is a much more serious time.
The Thursday before Ash Wednesday (25.Feb.2009) is known as "Weiberfastnacht", or "Women's carnival night". On this day tradition dictates that women are allowed to cut off the tie of any man within reach. So guys, don't wear your favourite tie to work that day! The women are also allowed to kiss any man they like. The following Monday is known as Rosenmontag (Rose Monday). On Rosenmontag there are various street processions involving lots of costumes and carnival floats. Faschingsdienstag (Carnival Tuesday) is the last day of Fasching and when most of the festivities happen. Faschingsdienstag is not an official holiday but workers usually get the afternoon off.
Fasching around the world
Fasching is celebrated mainly in the Catholic parts of Germany. Different areas give it different names, for example Karneval, Fastnacht, Fasnet, or Fosnat. Fasching is only the name used in and around Munich.
Some of the biggest celebrations in Germany take place in Köln (see: karneval.de). This city certainly has the longest tradition with street parties dating back to the 14th century. Many Bavarians try to claim that the biggest celebrations are now in Munich, but this is debatable.
Of course all the parties throughout Germany are dwarfed in comparison to the carnivals held at the same time in Rio de Janeiro and New Orleans. In New Orleans the festival is called Mardi Gras which is French for "fat Tuesday".
Fasching celebrations in Munich
As mentioned, the climax of Fasching 2009 in Munich is Tuesday 24th February. Between 2pm and 5pm the Viktualienmarkt pedestrian area is turned into a party zone. A local radio station provides a crane which hangs huge speakers in mid-air and churns out cheesy pop hits. It's usually carnage and the whole area from Marienplatz to Viktualienmarkt is completely blocked with the throng of people. If you don't fancy going down there yourself you can always spy on the festivities via the Viktualienmarkt Webcam.
In the evening there are a number of gala balls. The big one is held in the Bayerischer Hof hotel but generally any bar or nightclub in Munich will be having some kind of Fasching special that night.
Fasching Donuts - Munich
What's with all the Donuts?
The ubiquitous food of Carnival season is donuts (in German: "Krapfen"). You can expect to see donuts piled high in the bakers and be offered them every day throughout the next month by colleagues and friends. The donuts come in all varieties containing sweets such as vanilla, marmelade, or chocolate. If you're on the Atkin's diet, bad luck!
So what's the reason for the donuts anyway? Well, in pre-Christian Europe it was customary to choose a man to be the "sacred king" of the tribe for a year. When his year in office was up he would be sacrificed and his blood returned to the soil to ensure a successful harvest. The method of choosing the sacred king was the King's Cake. A coin or bean would be placed in the cake before baking and whoever got the slice with the coin was the chosen one. In recent times the King's Cake idea has evolved into the donuts that we're familiar with today.
Faschings Balls 2009A Faschings Ball which is largely for English speakers takes place on Saturday 21sth February 2009. This is the largest expat Faschings Ball in Munich. It takes place every year and at only 35 Euros per ticket is a fraction of the cost of similar events taking place around Munich. Price includes: Full Buffet Meal prepared by the Hilton's own 5 stars chefs, Live 6 piece Latin Jazz Band 'Mantica', Faschings Floor Show and All night Disco.
For a long list of the other events and balls see the Faschingkalendar from muenchen.de.
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