I was still curious about our Nuremberg experience, and then I stumbled across this article, Silly Times: Read About The Strange Traditions Bavarians Practice During “Fasching”. I’ve included bits of it below, in case it disappears some time in the future. I’ve also added some video of our experience at the bottom.

When you think of carnival in Germany, the Rhineland normally comes to mind. However, it is not only Cologne and Mainz on the River Rhine where life goes crazy during the last days before Lent (this year from 16. to 21. February)! Bavaria has some very odd traditions, too, and you can read about some of the most unusual ones here:

The differneces between carnival in the Rhineland and in Bavaria start already with the naming of the “foolish” days which Bavarians mostly refer to as “Fasching”. Bavarians call these six days Preposterous Thursday, Sooty Friday, Lardy Saturday, Carnival Sunday, Blue Monday and Violet-Tuesday.  Most of these weird names go back to old carnival traditions. For example, Lardy Saturday is called so because this was the day when people indulged in a lot of the heavy lard pastry which was meant to fill their stomachs before the fasting season. Whereas carnival in the rest of Germany has its highpoint on Mondays, Bavarians have made the last day of this so called “fifth season of the year” the climax of all the revellry.

Carnival customs in Bavaria differ a lot, depending not only in which region it is being celebrated but sometimes even in which town you are. One of these customs is held even before the official carnival days: The traditional swimming in the Danube in Neuburg on River Danube  is staged each year on the last Saturday of January. Hundreds of disguised swimmers take an icy bath in the Danube and thousands are looking on. Rumour has it that many of the spectators are freezing more than the swimmers themselves – just from watching this cold event.

Other fancy customs are being maintained in Mindelheim and Dietfurt. In Mindelheim not only the inhabitants are dressing up for carnival but the beautiful city’s towers, too! The city towers are dressed like the triumvirate which reigns the city during this crazy period. A very special disguise is chosen by the people of Dietfurt on River Altmühl where on Preposterous Thursday everyone dresses up like a Chinese and townspeople elect one of their inhabitants “Chinese Emperor”.

Less weird but no less traditional is the so called “Schellenrühren” (Bell Ringing) in the Karwendel region. Young masqueraded men try to shy away winter with the ringing of their cow bells. Another very old tradition is the “Schäfflertanz” in Munich, a dance of traditionally dressed men which takes place only every seven years. While twenty men dance around a beer cask two “Kasper” (buffoons) go around and smear soot into women’s faces. 2012 is a Schäfflertanz year, so if you want to see it, check out the calendar of the Schäffler for performance dates (click on a date to see where they will dance on that day).

Apart from these more unusual traditions the “foolish time” – as carnival is often called here – is mainly celebrated with parades in Franconia, with wooden masks in Swabia and with costume balls in Munich. In Munich you will find many black/white balls, parties where everybody has to wear exclusively white or exclusively black clothes.

Since “Fasching” takes place during the ski season, some Bavarians go skiing in costumes. This so called “Ski-Fasching” can be watched mainly on the Firstalm above Lake Spitzing and on the Stie-Alm in Lenggries. Ski-Fasching is some sort of fusion between skiing and après-ski, a congenial mixture of partying and skiing.

On the last day of carnival Munich is the center of the festivities. This last day of follies is boisterously celebrated at the Viktualienmarkt with the “Dance of the Market Women”. Afterwards, the masses spread throughout the whole inner city which then turns into one big party zone.

So “Fasching” is a time worth spending in Bavaria. You can join the foolish bustling in the streets and ballrooms and have some great winter days with skiing in the mountains, too. Whether you come masqueraded or not, Bavaria welcomes you to spend “Fasching” here!

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