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How Winter Is Banished In Germany
|by Satis Shroff|
It was 8 am on a snowy Monday morning. There were hundreds of motley clad and colored spectators stomping their cold feet, all waiting for the boisterous merrymaking (Narrensprung) at the Old Town of Endingen (Kaiserstuhl), with 3500 costumed Narren from five countries. Among the Swabian-Allemanic figures were also masked guests from Belgium, Switzerland, Venezuela and Italy (the Ballerini of Bogolino from Lombardy).
The other masked figures were: the cute Hansele, the lame Schantle, Grottagoscha and the witches, whom you could recognize from the masks they were wearing and the notorious broom-sticks with which they d provoke you. The oldest characters of Fasnet were the Narro of Villingen, the Hansel from Donaueschingen, H|fingen and Brdunlingen. The Spdttlhansel from Wolfach carried a tin-larve, with a moveable lower jaw. Almost all the Narren carried attributes such as bells, pig's bladder, poles or mirrors. They came with pomp, music, tomfoolery and their characteristic movements, distributing sweets, oranges, brezeln (salty-bread), sausages and dry humor.
The word Fasnet is derived from two words and 'fas' means growth, fruit, juice, and 'net' or 'nacht' can be traced back to the Roman story-writer Titus, who wrote in the eleventh piece of Germania..."they don't even count like us, in days, but in nights...the night is manifested as the harbinger of day." The Fasnet in south-west Germany and Northern Switzerland is a very old tradition, which dates back to old Rome, begins on the 6th of January and ends on Thursday (Schmotz'ge Dunnschdig). Schmotzig is a synonym for 'fat' and in these days the Germans bake tasty cakes called Schmalzgebdck. Back in 1903 seven masked figures took part in the Narrensprung, as a countermeasure against the town people, who preferred the carnival, where they shout and greet people with 'Helau' and 'Alaaf.' The Z|nfte, as the cliques are called, organized themselves and founded in 1924 the United Swabian-Allemanic Narrenz|nft, which has 69 members today. After World War II, the cries of the knaves became the identification characters of the respective organisations.It might have its origin in the cry of joy called 'Juchzen' in German.
Masks always have an element of religion, myth or magic in them. There are people who wear masks to hide their Id which is normally written all over one s face. With a mask you can transform your current facial expressions into another permanent one. You symbolize another being. And in Fasnet or carnival a participant goes costumed in order to be what he always wanted to be, but never dared due to social inhibitions. If you re wearing a mask you can really flip-out, without being recognized. A bored housewife might play the vamp for three days, and an over-worked and under-paid clerk portrays a billion-dollar sheik and so forth.
Back to the Narrensprung again. The most adorable cavalier amongst the Narren is the Narro from Oberndorf, with his Brezelstange (salty bread held on a long pole). It reminded me of the Sel-roti that the Nepalese make during the Tihar festival. The motley fools (Narren) besides having their carnival license, freedom and rights, also have their rules of conduct during the processions and the merry-making period. For instance in Schramberg, where I had gone the previous winter, you had to sing the refrain:
Hairy, hairy is the cat. And when the cat isn't hairy, then she can't catch the mice (then the maidens will not like it(!) is another version. Then and only then, will you be blessed with a delicious brezel. Thomas and Claudia, some relatives of mine, who took part in the costumed procession had certainly made them sing the Fasnet-song before they handed them the bread with a blessing (Brezelsegen). It had been lovely to know someone under the masks.
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