Although carnival practices can be found in many places in the world, their customs may differ slightly from country to country or may even be as different as night and day. In this article we are going to talk about the carnival celebrations in four European countries to give an example of the variations of this tradition. However, from the entroido in Spain to the Fasnacht in Switzerland, they have at lease one thing in common: it is a celebratory time full of joy and laughter.


Laza, Spain

In the small community of Laza in Spain they are especially proud of their carnival called “entroido”. The entroido takes place in form of dance, music, feasting and the peliqueiros, who are masked men running through the streets of the village. The villagers know that the entroido has begun as soon as they hear the peliqueiros characteristic bells hanging from their waists and immediately people gather in the streets to view this spectacle. The masked men throw roses to the people or whip the bystanders with sticks as a reminder that it is time to play. Although their costumes and masks origins are unknown, locals suspect that it might have derived from the 16th-century tax collectors, who carried whips and wore masks with grim smiles to scare the people. For that particular day the peliqueiros are the authority figures and therefore resemble the 16th century tax collectors. Later that day the townspeople come together in the main plaza to start off the farrapada. A young man triggers it by throwing one muddy rag at an unsuspecting spectator. This quickly escalates into a mud war, where participants throw ash, mud, flour and dirt filled with ants at peoples faces and into their clothes. These traditions are the highlight of the year for the people in Laza and are still a vibrant part of the community today.



Deutsch: „Ahoi, helau, alaaf!“ So unterschiedlich die sogenannten „Narrenrufe“ schon klingen, wird auch Karneval (gerne auch Fastnacht oder Fasching genannt) in den verschiedenen Regionen Deutschlands gefeiert. Am meisten verbreitet sind die Feierlichkeiten dabei in den „Faschingshochburgen“ im Rheinland, darunter Mainz und Koeln. Bereits Wochen vor der eigentlichen Karnevalszeit werden im Fernsehen Fastnachtssitzungen ausgestrahlt, bei welchen Kabarrett, Musik und Tanz sowie Reden die Karnevalssaison einlaeuten. Waehrend der Fastnachtszeit selbst, die weit verbreitet mit dem „schmotzigen Donnerstag“ beginnt, gehoeren bunte Verkleidungen, eine ausgelassene Stimmung und Faschingskrapfen wie beispielsweise mit Erdbeermarmelade gefuelltes Hefegebaeck zum Programm. Karnevalsumzuege finden meistens am Faschingssonntag oder dem sogenannten Rosenmontag statt. Dabei ziehen buntgeschmueckte Festzuege durch einige Staedte in Deutschland. Neben dem hauptsaechlichen Spass an Verkleidung und dem Aufsammeln von Suessigkeiten, welche von den Umzugswaegen geschmissen werden, stehen teils allerdings auch politische Kritik im Fokus der Fastnachtszeit. In diesem Zusammenhang werden Fastnachtswaegen haeufig mit Karikaturen aktueller Politiker geziert oder machen auf gesellschaftliche Missstaende und Skandale aufmerksam. Spaetestens nach fuenf Tagen, am Aschwermittwoch, hat die ausgelassene Fastnachtszeit jedoch auch fuer den engagiertesten Karnevalisten ein Ende und der „normale“ Alltag rueckt an alte Stelle.

English: „Ahoi, helau, alaaf!“ Representing different areas of Germany, these calls of the carnival season indicate how differently carnival is celebrated in various German locations. In this context, the Rhineland with Cologne and Mainz as important centres of carnival, is one of the areas celebrating carnival the most. Several weeks before the actual season of carnival will begin, carnival TV shows are broadcasted, including cabaret, music and dance as well as speeches. During the actual carnival season, bright and colourful costumes, a happy and playful mood and a certain raised pastry with a filling of strawberry jam, the so-called “Faschingskrapfen” or “Berliner” are part of the everydaylife. Carnival parades usually take place on Shrove Sunday and Monday. In this context, the parades with decorated floats run through various German cities. Apart from the main aim of having fun with disguising oneself and collecting the sweets being thrown by people on the floats, there is also a rather serious aspect of political critique involved in the celebration of carnival. At least some parades include floats with caricatures of current politicians or any scandals having happened during the past year. Eventually, after five days, even the most engaged “carnivalist” turns back to his or her “normal life” until the next carnival season in the following year.


Basel, Switzerland

Fasnacht is the official Basel Carnival. It is also the biggest and most attended in Switzerland. It takes place every year between the months of February and March. The festivities start with the Morgestraich on the Monday after Ash Wednesday at exactly 4:00 am. During Morgestraich, at exactly 4 am all the lights in the old town of Basel are turned off, and the Industrielle Were Basel shuts down the streetlights. A parade takes place, where the Cliques pull or carry big lanterns though the city. The carnival lasts for exactly 72 hours and ends on Thursday morning at 4:00 am. During this time the participants of the festival dominate the old town of central Basel. Basler Fasnacht is often referred to as die drey scheenschte Dääg (“the three most beautiful days”). In this carnival which is so very different to others held in Switzerland, there is an obvious divide between spectators and participants.

The participants named the Fasnächtler, must dress up in various costumes which all the members of their Clique must wear. They are also obliged to wear Larves, which are big homemade masks caricaturing people. A Clique is a band of participants who dress the same and stay together throughout the carnival. The parades taking place on Monday and Wednesday afternoon are called Cortège and follow two defined ring routes: the inner ring runs clockwise, and the outer ring runs anticlockwise. Confetti plays a big part in Fasnacht. Only confetti of a single colour can be thrown, as mixed colour confetti implies you have picked it up off the street, which is an unhygienic practice, and frowned upon in Swiss culture.

Fasnacht is a pretty spectacular event, and I highly recommend it to anyone in Basel around February and March!!



English: The Danish carnival tradition “Fastelavn” is from Roman Catholic origin, but nowadays has little to do with religion. It is an opportunity to spend time with your family, especially for younger children, as they get to interact with their parents in ways they normally wouldn’t. For example a popular custom is fastelavnsris, where children wake up their parents by gently flogging them with twigs. The twigs, which are called fastelavnsris, have previously been decorated with paper cuttings, small figures and sometimes even candy by the children and are displayed in a vase. Fastelavnsris originates from an old fertility ritual, which has been brought into Christianity and has been adapted by the children as their right to flog their parents on this day of the year. Afterwards their parents reward the children with fastelavnsboller. The latter are sweet buns usually filled with vanilla cream or whipped cream and topped with sugar icing. Another traditional event is to slå katten af tønden, which means “to hit the cat off the barrel”, which is held in public places or at parties typically for children, but sometime also for adults. It is basically the same principle as a piñata. Instead of a piñata Danes use a barrel with a drawing of a cat on it and similar to a piñata it is filled with candy and oranges. Historically there was a living black cat inside, because hitting the cat was believed to be a safeguard against evil and pest. However, today the custom says that the one, who hits off the bottom of the barrel and makes all of the candy fall out, becomes kattedronning (queen of cats) and the person, who knocks down the last piece of the barrel, becomes kattekonge (king of cats).

Danish: Den danske fastelavnstradition er oprindeligt katolsk tradition, men nu om dage har den ikke meget at gøre med religion. Det er en muglighed for at være sammen med familien, især for yngre børn, som kan tilbringe tid med deres forældre på en måde som de eller ikke ville gøre. Eksempelvis er fastelavnsris en populær skik, hvor børn vækker deres forældre ved at slå dem forsigtigt med kvister. Disse kvister, som kaldes fastelavnsris, er tidligere blevet dekoreret af børnene med små figurer, papirsklip og nogle gange endda med slik og de bliver udstillet i stuen i en vase. Fastelavnsris stammer fra et gammelt frugtbarheds ritual, som er blevet bragt til kristendommen og er blevet tilpasset af børnene, som deres ret til at slå forældrene på denne ene dag i året. Bagefter belønner forældrene børnene med fastelavnsboller. Sidstnævnte er søde boller, som normalt er fyldt med vanilje creme eller flødeskum og er toppede med glasur. En anden traditional begivenhed er at slå katten af tønden, som afholdes på offentlige steder eller til fester typisk for børn, men nogle gange også for voksne. Det er sådan set det samme princip som en piñata. I sted for en piñata burger danskerne en tønde med en tegning af en kat på, som ligesom en piñata er fyldt med slik og appelsiner. Historisk set var der en levende kat inde i tønden, fordi det var set som beskyttelse mod det onde og pesten. I dag siger skikken at den som slår bunden af tønden og får alt slik til at falde ud, bliver til kattedronningen og personen, som slår det sidste stykke af tønden af, bliver kattekonge.




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