Many cultures throughout the world celebrate the days preceding Lent with parades and treats—Carnival in Brazil, Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and Karneval in Germany, for example. The Swabian culture has its own style of pre-Lenten celebration—Fastnacht (sometimes spelled Fasnacht)—
with Perchtenlauf, the run of the Perchts, or creatures (actually, I’ve been told that this is a tradition specific to Austria and Bavaria. In Tübingen, the creatures are called Häs). Tübingen has traditionally been a Protestant village, and has only begun celebrating the borrowed Catholic festival in recent years (thanks again to Larissa for the corrections!).
Although this tradition is not native to Tübingen, I found it interesting that there are two types of Perchts—the Schönperchten, the beautiful creatures (representing the coming spring) and the Schiachperchten, the ugly creatures (representing the winter). What’s interesting is that the origin of this word is Perchta, the pagan, Alpine goddess of spinning who appears as either an old, toothless woman to drive out evil, or as a young, beautiful woman with a white dress.
The holiday falls in the traditional, spirit-filled time between winter and spring considered Rauhnächte, or rough nights. Parades of wooden-masked creatures, both ugly and beautiful, distribute flowers and candy in the streets. It’s becoming popular to borrow costumes from the other carnival festivals, including modern, Halloween-like costumes—at least from what I see on Instagram— but the traditional costumes with the wooden masks are still used in the parades. Often, these costumes have antique masks are passed down through the generations.
Here’s a video of this year’s Fasnacht in Tübingen:
I’ve become intrigued with this celebration, and I hope to attend it in person one day. Is there anything else you’d like to share about this festival? Let me know in the comments below!