Fasnacht

A reason to celebrate

| January/February 2002


Though we tend to associate carnival with hot-blooded places like Rio and New Orleans, some of the most festive celebrations erupt in chillier locations. Cologne, a German city on the Rhine, hosts a weeklong bash famous for Weiberfasnacht (women’s carnival), the day local frauleins swarm through the streets planting wet kisses on anyone they wish. In Imst, Austria, men dress as women and dance around town. In Basel, Switzerland, things are even wilder—thousands of townspeople dress up in fanciful costumes and organize impromptu parades to the accompaniment of raucous off-key brass music. Often they burst into a tavern to recite satirical verses about local politicians and celebrities. A predominantly Protestant town, Basel defies Catholic custom by holding its Fasnacht on the Monday after Ash Wednesday, perhaps setting a precedent for you to hold your own carnival party or parade any time you please. Carnival fun is even taking root here in the snow belt, giving us a great excuse to get outside in the depths of winter. I have warm memories of a below-zero-wind-chill day in Burlington, Vermont, where I joined crowds cheering the annual Mardi Gras parade on Church Street.