Fasching is big in Europe. You may have also heard of it as ‘Carnival’ and every place seems to have a slightly different name and slightly different traditions going on. Are we chasing away winter, or binging before Easter? I can’t really get a straight answer but what’s clear is that it starts on the 11th of November (at 11 minutes past 11) and continues until midnight on Shrove Tuesday (or pancake Tuesday if you’re like me).
My own research brought up a couple of things: Firstly that it is a festive season of fun and food before lent; and secondly that the reason behind the costumes is because in days gone by it allowed the classes to mix together and also enabled citizens to ‘poke fun’ at politicians and the like. In Germany, for example, they take Fasching very seriously, with various costume festivals and events starting from the Wednesday prior and going until Ash Wednesday.
In Austria there is also plenty going on, the most prominent days being Fasching Samstag (Saturday) and Fasching Dienstag (Tuesday). On these days there’ll be street parties with everyone dressed up in the centre of town to watch elaborately constructed floats and musical entourages parade down the street. Though from what I’ve seen, many of these floats are constructed to enable vast amounts of drinking… like tractors pulling mini parties behind them.
In the evening, if you haven’t already written yourself off, you can attend one of the many Fasching parties or balls, joining the throngs of people dressed as pirates and pieces of fruit and mermaids and cowboys, and drink and dance the night away.
This year we had quite a low-key celebration, but it still involved all the important elements – dressing up and eating Krapfen. A group of seven of us gathered to play a crime role-play game. You know the ones, where there’s a murderer but only he knows it and everyone else has to try and guess who he is while he tries to throw them off with misinformation and clues. I have to say it was quite a challenge for me, completely in German, but fun nonetheless.
Fasching Tuesday isn’t technically a holiday, however many people (especially in Germany) will at least take part of the time off between the two Wednesdays to celebrate and in many workplaces it is common to dress in costume. Of course the other great thing about Fasching is Krapfen. Krapfen is Austria’s version of a donut: a sweet, fluffy treat filled traditionally with apricot jam. And I’m one of the lucky ones. On Fasching Dienstag my work hands out Krapfen to all its employees. Combine dressing in costume with a free morning tea… and well it didn’t really feel like a proper work day anyway!