Tuesday, February 19, 2013


While most American children were celebrating Valentines Day in their classrooms last week, the German kids had the week off for Fasching.  It seems they do celebrate Valentines here to a very small extent but it is only meant for adults, or "lovers" as I was told.  (How can you not think of the SNL Will Ferrell and Rachel Dratch skit?!)  Back to Fasching though.  What is it?  Think along the lines of our Mardi Gras.  While there are many historical events tied to Fasching it is predominantly a week-long celebration leading up to Lent.  Traditionally, on the Thursday before Ash Wednesday (the beginning of Lent), women may snip men's ties and kiss any men they choose passing by.  The weekend before there are many celebrations in the form of carnivals, parades and the typically stoic Germans cut loose and dress in all forms of costume.  The biggest festivities take place on the Monday or Tuesday before Ash Wednesday with people taking off work (many have the day off... Germans take their holidays seriously!).  Whole downtowns of cities and villages are closed off to traffic and temporary markets are set up selling everything from beer, wine, sausages and tasty pastries such as the famous Berliners (big donuts filled with jam or other fabulous fillings) to souvenirs and traditional German wear such as lederhosen.  The very first worldwide "carnival" was held in Cologne, Germany in 1823.

The boys and I were lucky to be invited to one such festivity last Tuesday in Leonberg.  It is a city about 20 minutes north of us.  They were hosting their 124th Pferdemarkt (Horse Market) and Fasching parade along with a carnival and horse & buggy competition.  The streets were closed down and some areas were lined with horses to buy and sell.  Most seemed like big sturdy work horses but there were also miniature ponies.  The weather was pretty miserable but bad weather doesn't stop the hearty Germans from celebrating and it didn't stop us.  We "braved" the weather for about an hour before the parade and sampled some yummy treats and watched some of the horse & buggy competition.  Then we retreated to our friend's business (a pretty, old converted apartment) right on the corner of all the action, 2 stories up.  Perfect view, warm & cozy and our hostess had lots of treats including Berliners and sparkling wine (sekt) for the adults.

Below are a few picts from our day.  Peter got in the spirit and wore his NASA astronaut costume!  Many of the photos are people dressed up as witches.  I think traditionally people dressed in mask to scare away the "evil" winter spirits to usher in the spring.  I think today these people (men & women) dressed as witches belong to wine clubs.  Each village has their own club/society and wine and you can tell where they are from by their costumes.  I am not sure at what age you may join but when you are younger you have no mask.  You somehow earn it and then a hand-carved mask made especially for the occasion is bestowed upon you in a ceremony.  I am not completely clear on all this and will have to confirm with a friend who may have more knowledge on this.  Anyways, these witches were fascinating to see and many of them "scare" and chase some of the parade viewers along the sidelines and make mischief like messing up your hair or providing tiny cups of their wine for the adults and candy tossed to children.

A few picts are random of the brand new McDonalds built a few miles from us.  Yippee!  This was on Peter's "Vacation To-Do List" as a treat.  Many of the McD's here have mini cafes inside, serving many types of coffee and espresso (Europeans *love* their coffee!) as well as various pastries all with real dishware.  Also, many have various specials that are indicative of local cuisine.  The Currywurst is some type of sausage/hot dog sliced up and served with a curry ketchup.  This is extremely popular here and can be found at many stands serving sausages and pommes frites (french fries).

Also a random pict is Peter celebrating his first 100 days at school.  I couldn't resist because he was so excited and he's just too cute!

Mike was out of the country for the 3rd week in a row so he missed our first Fasching.  Apparently the Japanese don't realize the whole of Germany shuts down for this!  ;)  I am hoping the next vaca I report on will be a little more exciting with a family trip!
(Click on pict for larger view/slideshow)


  1. Tell Ross to brush up on the Japanese coordination! Sounds like it was a great time anyway. Fasching sounds awesome and everything, but I have my eye on that CurryWurst! *oink oink* Also, the donuts you mention. Ahhh! I've been craving a good jelly-filled donut that is terrible for me. And lastly, I love the new little family pic over there on the right :)

  2. Fun times! Sorry ~ I'm a little behind in reading. I actually signed up for the email service a minute ago so I won't miss when you post. Sounds like everyone is doing well. Yes, I'm on for the pastries, etc. Have always been my favorite. If we get to make the trip, I guess I'll be in trouble everywhere. I thought it would just be Paris, but evidently a lot of Europeans love their pastries!! Hello to everyone.