February 12, 2015 When I arrived in Mainz, I had no idea I had landed in one of the biggest PAR-TAY centers in all of Germany. At least, it’s a party during Karnival–or Fastnacht, or Meenzer Fassenacht if you really want to sound like a local–the Thursday through Tuesday directly preceding the start of Lent in the church calendar. Mainz’ celebration is rivaled only by Cologne in Terms of all-around grandeur–six day of partying, uninhibited foolery, and dissolution of all sorts.
It all kicked off this morning at 11:11am. Eleven is the number of the fools, cheeky, sinful, and askant, positioned between the orderly numbers 10 and 12. Ten commandments, 10 fingers on a perfect human body, 12 months in the celestial year, 12 clockwork hours in a day–so much structure and elegance has no place during carnival.
In the official Fastnacht calendar, Thursday is Altweiberfastnacht–the Old Ladies’ Carnival, in memory of a stubborn group of German washerwomen who staged a rebellion in 1824 and broke into the male-dominated celebrations for the first time. Traditionally, women are given full political, social, and sexual reign on Altweiberfastnacht–crossdressing is permitted, the mayor hands over the keys of the city, and women claim their dominance over men by cutting off their ties (Freud would have a hay-day with the symbolism behind that one, let me tell you!).
Another vitally important part of Fastnacht is the music. Specifically, the Schlager–the incredibly catchy, incredibly annoying German Party music which everybody hates when they are a more rational state of mind, but apparently can’t get enough of during five days of the year.
Due to my huge camera, people assumed I was from the newspaper, and practically threw themselves at me trying to get me to take their picture.
And there it was: the opening moments of one of the biggest events of the year, on a gray Thursday morning, in downtown Mainz. It was a PAR-TAY, I tell you.