Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Karneval - Fasching - Mardi Gras

In the southern part of Germany (which is the predominantly Roman Catholic part of the country) Shrove Tuesday ("Faschingsdienstag") is celebrated with a Fasching parade. This period of celebration and partying had its origin in the need to use up all remaining meat and animal products such as eggs and butter before the fasting season. The celebration of Carnival ends on "Mardi Gras" (French for "Fat Tuesday"), the day before Ash Wednesday, when the rigors of Lent's 40 days of fasting and sacrifice begin. Although the symbolism and meaning have long been lost, and we are not Catholic, the kids were invited to walk in the parade in costume with the Girl Scouts. Getting to participate in the tradition was a truly unique experience. Having never been to New Orleans I can not say for sure, but I am sure this celebration was a lot more tame than that of the "big easy".
Everyone in the parade is dressed up in costumes. Some on floats, but mostly walking. All along the sides there are kids and adults alike dressed up to watch the parade. Those in the parade throw candy, beads and other assorted novelties to the eager faces on the sides of the road.
Our Girl Scout troop dressed up in a "zoo" theme for the parade. Sarah was a BEAR, Noah a TIGER, and little Micah was a MOUSE. I do not have many pictures of what was in the parade since we walked the route and all we saw was the back of the float in front of us and people, people, people on the sides waiting to have candy thrown at them. But I think I managed to capture some of the fun we had. Also, there was another little sibling in our troop, a 4-year old girl who also dressed up as a little gray mouse. How cute these two were as our little zoo mice!!
The parade route took us through the whole village of Ramstein. It was about a 2 hour and 30 minute walk from start to finish.
Before the parade started the Girl Scout leader and I talked to the troop about why this parade started and what all those word meant. Just so they had at least a little understanding of what we were doing (after all, are we not a home school troop?) While walking back to the car Noah approached me with a serious look on his face. He asked me, "Even if I am not Catholic, can I give up something for Lent?" We had talked to the kids that when people give something up it has to be something that is difficult for them to part with so that they, on however small a scale, can appreciate what sacrifice is in their own little world. So I answered Noah and said, "Sure". Noah then told me that he had been thinking about it and he would like to give up chocolate. His first question though was.... "When can I have chocolate again?"

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