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Fasching: der Karneval

The spooky holiday Halloween is celebrated in many countries, but has only begun to be celebrated in German-speaking countries in the last few decades. This is partially because these countries already have a similar holiday—in fact a whole season—called Carnival. This holiday period is called Fasching, or der Karneval.


Fasching season officially begins on November 11th at 11:11 p.m and ends on Ash Wednesday, which in 2023 is on Wednesday, February 22nd. The holiday is celebrated with large costume parades and costume parties. In parts of Europe where Fasching is celebrated—usually in traditionally Catholic regions—it is not unusual to see people in outlandish costumes in public. It's a bit like having Halloween for four months of the year! Let's take a look today at terms associated with Fasching in some Yabla videos about the event.


Helau! Hier aus Linkenheim an Fasching, Karneval.

Hurrah! We are here in Linkenheim for Fasching, carnival,

Caption 2, Fasching: mit Cettina

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Helau is a regional celebratory greeting used during Fasching celebrations. It could also be translated, depending upon the context, as "hey!" or "hello!," which it closely resembles in pronunciation. According to some sources, it might be a shortened version of "hallelujah," but meant in jest. Another possibility is that it derives from Hölle auf, and is thus a call to "raise hell." This is definitely true to the spirit of Fasching!


Da wir ja Fasching haben momentan, wollen wir uns auch ein bisschen verkleiden.

Since it's Carnival right now, we also want to dress up in costumes a bit.

Captions 18-19, Sallys Tortenwelt und Kochwelt: Bewerbungsvideo

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People like to dress up in all sorts of costumes, though they are typically less spooky than those we associate with Halloween. It's popular to put on outrageous, colorful costumes reminiscent of the 18th century, but with the addition of brightly colored wigs!


Fasching kann man auch Fasenacht oder Karneval nennen, also das kommt immer so auf den Ort drauf an.

You can also call Carnival Fasenacht or Karneval, it always depends on the location.

Captions 6-7, Fasching: mit Cettina

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So as you see, Fasching is a very regional event. When I lived in the Bavarian capital Munich, I'd often see people in crazy costumes on public transport at this time of year. Whereas in Prussian Berlin, it's pretty rare to see people in such outlandish get-ups.


Es gibt den Schmutzigen Donnerstag, der eigentlich auch für die Frauen ist.

There is Dirty Thursday, which is actually also for the women.

Caption 15, Fasching: mit Cettina

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Different holidays during Fasching are also called by different names, depending on the region. The "Dirty Thursday" above ("Fat Thursday" in English) is also called Weiberfastnacht or Weiberfasching ("women's Fasching"), hence Cettina's comment that this holiday is for women. In Cologne, it is called Wieverfastelovend, in Aachen Fettdonnerstag, and in Koblenz Schwerdonnerstag. And be forewarned if you're a male wearing a tie that day: It's best to wear one that you don't care much about, as women sometimes cut the the ties off of total strangers and compensate them with ein Bützchen—a little kiss!


In Köln machen die Geschäfte zu. Da ist ein paar Tage wirklich Ausnahmezustand.

In Cologne, the shops close. There is really a state of emergency for a couple of days.

Captions 13-14, Fasching mit Cettina

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The celebrations get so wild in some cities that shops are shut and the police have to take extra shifts for the sake of public safety.


Es ist alles super: die Kostüme super, die Guggenmusik ist am besten!

It's all great: the costumes are great, the Guggenmusik is the best!

Captions 19-21, Fasching: Rosenmontagszug in Mainz

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Never heard of Guggenmusik? Frankly, I hadn't either! It's the marching band music played during Fasching, and you can read all about it on Wikipedia and listen to some examples on YouTube.


Further Learning
Watch the videos in Cettina's Yabla series about Fasching. You can then go to Yabla German and search for some of the terms you learned and see them in context in other videos. Perhaps you and some fellow classmates can even organize your own Fasching party, complete with crazy costumes. Helau!

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