Today, on the 11th of November at 11 o’clock and 11 minutes, the fifth season of the year starts in some parts of Germany – it is ”Faschingszeit”! But why do Germans have an additional season and what do they celebrate? After reading this post, you will know this and the important vocabulary for this event!

The 5th season of a German year

“Karneval” marks the time between St. Martin’s day and the beginning of the fast before Easter. The real celebrations only start in January and February because of the fast before and the event of Christmas. As the Easter fast means that one needs to waive many things, one uses this time to celebrate and enjoy all pleasures that are forbidden during the fast.


Karnevall or Fasching – you name it

Today the important center of the carnival is the Rhineland, while it is also celebrated in other parts of Germany. Depending on where you are, this event is called by a various amount of names as like “Karnevall” or “Fasching”.

Date and time are chosen with “11” because, in medieval times, this number was associated with folly, prank, and fun while in Christianity this number is connected with sin and profanity.


Der Elferrat

During the 19th century, people established the Elferrat. This is kind of a parliament that only acts during carnival time. The word “Elferrat” is composed of the two words “Elf” (11) and “Rat” (council).

Now, the 11 symbolizes the equality of all people as it was higher than the 10 of the 10 commands. Also, it has a connection with the French idea of equality which gained power in the 18th century.


Rosenmontag und Weiberfastnacht

The street carnival (Straßenkarnevall) and the celebrations in big halls are already starting on the Thursday before Rosenmontag – which is called “Weiberfastnacht”. During this day of Karnevall, women are “given the power” and therefore they cut men’s ties and can do whatever they want.

Rosenmontag (Rose Monday) marks the highlight of the celebrations which is the Monday before Ash Wednesday which marks the end of the carnival.

In many cities, there are huge Karnevallparaden (carnival parades) on Rosenmontag on which dressed up people celebrate. The idea behind the costume is that one can become somebody else and do things one would not do in normal life.

Mostly, the trucks on this parade have ironical and cynical designs that lampoon politicians, stars or debates recently hold.

Also, people are given sweets or other small presents from the trucks and scream “Narrenrufe” (foolish slogans) as “Helau” or “Alaaf”.

Many people also meet in big halls for such events. There, one can see the “Elerfat” most likely sitting on a stage and giving speeches called “Büttenrede” which are mostly very ironic or cynical and lampoon politicians or public events of the last year. Additionally, one can see musicians and dancing “Funkenmariechen” who are female dancers wearing a typical carnival outfit – they are a bit like the cheerleaders of the carnival.

Fastnacht and Aschermittwoch

The day after Rosenmontag is called “Fastnacht” (fast night) which slowly introduces the idea of the upcoming fast.
“Aschermittwoch” (Ash Wednesday) marks the end of the celebrations. A straw doll called “Nubbel” is burned as a scapegoat for all of the sins which were made during the fifth season. At midnight all of the Karnevall celebrations are over.


Important vocabulary for the 5th season

Deutsch English
der Karnevall / der Fasching carnival
der Elferrat “parliament of carnival”
die Weiberfastnacht Thursday before Rosenmontag
der Rosenmontag Rose Monday
die Fastnacht Carnival (fast night)
der Aschermittwoch Ash Wednesday
das Kostüm / die Verkleidung costume
die Narrenrufe fool calls
die Büttenrede speech hold during the celebrations
das Funkenmariechen girl of the dance group
der Narr / die Narren fool, jester
Nubbel name of the “scapegoat” at the end of the celebration that is burned
die Fastenzeit fasting period
der Umzug / die Parade parade
der Karnevalsverein the carnival club
sich verkleiden to dress up


Bis bald!



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