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Festivals of Western Europe

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Perseus
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« Reply #60 on: April 29, 2009, 03:22:52 pm »

FASTNACHT (Shrove Tuesday) The Tuesday preceding Ash Wednesday

    Fastnacht, as Shrove Tuesday is called, is celebrated throughout Germany with masquerades, carnival processions and ceremonials that vary in character according to locality and folk custom. In the Rhine district where many of the carnivals originate in religious rites, there is strict adherence to the sacred pattern. In Mainz, on the other hand, companies of guards pitch camp along city thoroughfares--especially in the cathedral area--and form a bodyguard to Prince Carnival. In Cologne, Prince Carnival presides over a Fool's Court. He is surrounded by councilors wearing high peaked hats and the badge of the Order of Fools. The Sparks, as Prince Carnival's bodyguard is called, wear the uniforms of old Cologne's City Guards and carry wooden muskets over their shoulders.

    In Munich Shrovetide observances are marked by much of the pageantry and splendor of the Middle Ages. Actors dressed in court costumes of former days perform ancient guild dances, while historical floats and ceremonies portray much of the picturesqueness of Munich's past.

    Eastern Saxony boasts some of the most charming carnival celebrations of all Germany. In this region a symbolic battle is fought between representatives of Winter and Spring. Winter always is vanquished and Spring welcomed with laughter, merrymaking, and song. In some localities this kind of carnival celebration occurs somewhat later than Fastnacht. The character of the spring drama varies from district to district. In Eisenach, for example, where the battle of the seasons has been observed since 1286, "Summer is won" by burning Winter in effigy after his defeat by Dame Sun.

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