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Carnival or Fastnacht means the time before Lent. The term „carnival“ is mainly used in the Rhineland.

In other parts of Germany, the terms Fasching or Fastnacht are more common. In Baden-Württemberg in particular, a distinction is still made today between carnival and Swabian-Alemannic Fastnacht.

The „fifth season“ traditionally begins in Germany on 11 November at 11.11 a.m. and ends on Ash Wednesday. In between, it is interrupted during the Christmas season from 1 Advent to 6 January.

Beginnings of carnival 5,000 years ago in Mesopotamia
Precursors of the carnival were already celebrated in Mesopotamia about 5,000 years ago. Even then, there was the idea of equality during the celebrations. Workers and rulers were on the same level for a short time – this principle is still part of carnival today. In the Middle Ages, from about the 12th to the 16th century, people celebrated fool’s festivals around 6 January, during which church rituals were also parodied.

„Carnival“ translates as „flesh – farewell“.
The oldest known literary reference to the „fasnaht“ is found in Wolfram von Eschenbach’s „Parzival“. The term „Vaschanc“ also appears in the 13th century in southern Germany and in the Bavarian-Austrian region.

Since the 17th century, „carnival“ is attested, but its word history remains unclear. The most common explanation today refers to Lent as a meatless period and sees the origins of the term carnival in the Latin „carne vale“ („meat – farewell“).

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