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Home Page > Features > Germany > Fastnacht (in Nussloch)

Fastnacht Celebrations

A number of German festivals and celebrations are derived from Catholic tradition.  One of those is Fastnacht, which is a winter celebration that precedes the Catholic Lenten season leading to Easter.  The Lenten season begins in late winter on a Wednesday and lasts forty days -- forty days during which practicing Catholics engage in fasting and sacrifice (usually in the form of giving up something that one enjoys).  As the winter is already an austere time of year, the Germans use the last week before Lent as a time for wild and raucous partying, a 'last chance' so to speak.  This is a short photo album with some scenes from the Fastnacht parade done in February 2004 in the town of Nussloch where we live, with some background information about Fastnachts in general.

Fastnacht celebrations last throughout the week preceding Ash Wednesday, the day kicking off the Lenten season.  The majority of them happen on the Thursday the week before, serving as an occasion for parties and parades such as the one Veronica came across in our 'hometown' of Nussloch.  As some of these pictures show, these parades show off some rather wild costumes.  Costumes such as these are often available in the German department stores after Christmas (much like how Halloween costumes are sold in the states).

But most of the costumes in the Nussloch parade were of the homemade variety, as were a number of the 'floats'.  Groups such as construction engineers, sanitation workers, and farmers took the opportunity to sell (or in some cases lampoon) their craft.  Later on was a marching band consisted of a similar batch of flannel-clad folks in construction gear.


Fastnacht is mostly celebrated in southern Baden-Wuerrtemberg and Bavaria, and certain Black Forest towns have particularly noteworthy events, many with a Halloween theme.  One of the more famous that we are familiar with (but have not seen) is in the central Black Forest town of Rottweil who host celebrations on the Sunday beginning in the extreme cold of 5AM!  Nusslochers are a bit more normal than that, we suppose.

The kids really get into the act, too.  Some of them were together as a class, all dressed together in a common theme.  Or some of them, like the peppy cripple at bottom right, simply join their parents in a display.  This was the funniest of the groups. They came from the local clinic showing off some of the their trickier patients.

A lot of the local clubs, in this case a biking club, put forth floats or parades for advertising. The local soccer club and horse club did the same.  This was a favorite among our photos -- we wondered how old this particular contraption was.  But hey, it still worked!

Some groups went all out on the floats, too, such as this Scottish Castle built on a pickup truck (we think) and packed with people.  Most of the floats have a farming theme -- barns with lots of hay and pseudo-farm folk in wacky costumes! 

The parade went all around the tiny downtown of Nussloch for a couple hours, and virtually the entire town turned out to participate or watch.  That's the beauty of these events, it's a cool excuse for the town (and neighboring communities, too) to have some fun during the dead of winter.

(C) 2004 Tom and Veronica Galvin

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