Carnival or Mardi Gras goes by many names in German, depending on the region and dialect:

Karneval (Rhineland, former Roman settlements),

Fasching (Austria, Bavaria, Berlin),

Fastnacht (Baden, Switzerland).

Whether it’s Fasching or Karneval, it is a time to let off steam and live it up before the Lenten period that once called for fasting (die Fastenzeit). It is this fasting tradition that gave the celebration its Fastnacht name (“night before fasting”).

Today there are elaborate parades (Umzüge) in all the large and small communities where Fasching is celebrated. Another part of the celebration involves Carnival royalty (princes, princesses) and a sort of “counter-government” during the season. The Cologne Rosenmontagumzug is an event broadcast each year on German television, similar to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade in New York. It features colorful floats with caricatured figures mocking local and national politicians and other personalities or events.

Germans call the pre-Lenten Carnival season die Närrische Saison (“the foolish season”) or die Fünfte Jahreszeit (“the fifth season”). The official start of the Fasching season is the 11th day of the 11th month (Elfte  Elfte, Nov. 11) at 11:11am, depending on the region.

Spielmannszug Milwaukee celebrates Karneval by holding a Prinzenkrönung102_1850 (Crowning) every November, a Maskenball (Masquerade Ball) every January or February (depending on when Lent falls), and a Lumpenball (Hobo Ball) every February or March (after Lent). Please check our event calendar for the current dates.