Fastnacht

Fastnacht

[faws-nahk, -nahkt]

Fastnacht or Fasnacht is the pre-Lenten carnival in Alemannic folklore in Switzerland, southern Germany, Alsace and western Austria.

It is also known in parts of Pennsylvania Dutch Country as Fauschnaut Day and is celebrated on the day before Ash Wednesday, or the last Tuesday before Lent at 4:00am.

Etymology

Fastnacht in Mainz also Fassenacht, in Swiss German Fasnacht, in Swabia Fasnet, Fasent is often connected to fasten "to fast" by popular etymology, allegedly from celebrations on the eve preceding fasting. Comparison of dialect variants however yields an OHG *fasanaht, with an element fasa- of unclear meaning. A likely derivation is from PIE "purify" (cognate to pava-mana), or alternatively connected with Middle High German vaselen "prosper, bud" and interpreted as a fertility rite.

Fasching (MHG vaschanc or vaschang) is related, probably originally with a second element -gang instead of -nacht.

Overview

The Swabian-Alemannic carnival begins on January 6 (Epiphany/Three Kings Day). This celebration is known as Fastnacht (literally "Fasting Eve" as it originally referred to the eve of the fasting season). Variants are Fasnet, Fasnacht or Fasent. Fastnacht is held in Baden-Württemberg, parts of Bavaria, and Alsace. Switzerland and Vorarlberg, in Austria, also hold this celebration. The festival starts on the Thursday before Ash Wednesday, known in these regions as Schmotziger Donnerstag or Fettdonnerstag. In Standard German, schmutzig means "dirty", but in the Alemannic dialects schmotzig means "fat"; "Greasy Thursday", as remaining winter stores of lard and butter used to be consumed at that time, before the fasting began. Elsewhere the day is called "Women's Carnival" (Weiberfastnacht), being the day when tradition says that women take control. In particular regions of Tyrol, Salzburg and Bavaria traditional processions of the Perchten welcome the springtime. The Schönperchten (beautiful Perchts) represent the birth of new life in the awakening nature, the Schiachperchten ("ugly Perchts") represent the dark spirits of wintertime. Farmers yearn for warmer weather and the Perchtenlauf (Run of Perchts; typical scenery) is a magical expression of that desire. The nights between winter and spring, when evil ghosts are supposed to go around, are also called Rauhnächte (rough nights). Mask of an "ugly Percht"

Switzerland

External links

See also

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