Fastnacht—a Swabian-Alemannic Pre-Lenten Festival

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!





Written by A. Alexander


  • larissa says:

    Prechten are not a Swabian thing, that’s Bavarian/Austrian (you gonna hate that day you liked my pictures on instagram 😉 )
    Here they are called Häs and the people that were them Hästräger (Häs-Carrier).

    I wrote something about the Swabian Fasnet in German – maybe with google translate

    Very important: it used (and mostly is) still a catholic thing. Tübingen for example did not celebrate Fasnet for centuries, since it is a very protestant town. The Tübingen parade started only 10 years ago. They also don’t have a traditional Narrenzunft (fools guild?!). We live in the last protestant village (well, now it’s part of Tübingen) before the “border”, the next village – and all the villages/ towns to the west of it – are catholic, in our village 30 years ago (so I was told) the Protestant pastor forbade his congregation (well the whole village basically) to attend the fasnet-parade or fasnet activities in the next village (of course most of the people went anyway …), but still some parents didn’t allow their children (!!) to wear costume for school-fasnet – because it was considered catholic mummenschanz (impossible to translate)

  • A. Alexander says:

    Hi Larissa! Thank you for all the great info. This was really helpful, as Wikipedia did not distinguish the Austrian traditions with the Bavarian ones. Also, it is really interesting that Fasnet has only been celebrated for about ten years in Tübingen—I also had not found that Tübingen is predominantly Protestant! I’ll edit this post accordingly. And thank you, also, for the maultaschen recipe—I made them tonight!

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