“Schwellkoepp” (swollen heads), which are large heads modeled after famous characters from Fasching history, are worn on the parade route in Mainz during the Rose Monday (Rosenmontag) Parade in 2017.
“Schwellkoepp” (swollen heads), which are large heads modeled after famous characters from Fasching history, are worn on the parade route in Mainz during the Rose Monday (Rosenmontag) Parade in 2017. (Photo Credit: Nadine Bower) VIEW ORIGINAL

WIESBADEN, Germany – It’s that time of the year again when Germany normally celebrates its “fifth season”, the Fasching season. This year, with the COVID-19 pandemic, everything is different – but how does Germany celebrate in “normal times”?

Every February, Fasching goes into full swing with big parades on the streets and fairs to celebrate the beginning of the Lenten season.

Köln, Düsseldorf and Mainz are Germany’s Fasching capitals. Although Fasching season officially starts in November, the big parties start in February — this year it would have started Thursday, Feb. 11. Normally, women would dress up in funny costumes and carry a pair of scissors to cut off men’s ties, literally cutting off the symbol of men’s power. Some companies end their workday around noon that day to allow their female workers to go out on the streets to celebrate and cut off as many ties as they can. The day is widely known as Weiberfastnacht (women’s Fasching).

On Friday, so-called Soot Friday, children were traditionally allowed to smear soot on people’s faces. However, this custom is not practiced much anymore in the Rhein-Main area.

On Saturday, the city of Wiesbaden usually celebrates their Kinderfest followed by a children’s parade. The parade takes place in the downtown pedestrian area.

On Sunday, Mainz focuses more on its surrounding communities and districts, which hold their parades that day. Meanwhile, people of Wiesbaden gather in the downtown area to watch the Wiesbaden Fasching parade. The parade consists of floats that usually make fun of national and international politicians or topics, but it also consists of marching bands and troops on foot.

Many people bring bags to the Fasching parades to collect small toys and candy that the people on the floats toss into the crowd. Traditionally, everybody yells the word “helau” (Hell-ow) and waves the arm.

The high point of the festivities is “Rose Monday”. The parade in Mainz is one of the biggest in the country and features almost 10,000 participants from Mainz and other European cities always starting at 11:11 a.m. The first time this parade was held was in 1838.

Featured in the parade are Schwellköpp (“swollen heads”), funny large-headed figures modeled after famous characters from Fasching history. The person wearing the head carries 25 kg (around 55 pounds) on a 7.2 km (4.5 miles) march through the city.