Word of the Week: Weiberfastnacht

Feb 5, 2016

Weiberfastnacht Enlarge image (© dpa) Those of you who were in Cologne on February 4 may have experienced quite a party! In the US, we would call that day "Fat Thursday". But in the German Rhineland, it's known as Weiberfastnacht, which means "Women's Carnival Night".

On this day, work usually ends early (often at noon) and festivities begin at 11:11 a.m. People wear costumes and go out for drinks, but what makes this day particularly eventful is the womens' activities. Women "takeover" town halls, cut off mens' ties to strip them of their statuses and sometimes give them a Bützchen (little kiss) in return. It's a day of celebration for women.

Weiberfastnacht Enlarge image (© dpa) But this wasn't always the case. Carnival has been celebrated in Cologne for 2,000 years - almost as long as the city itself has existed. In the beginning, it was primarily a men's celebration. While the women were at home cooking or doing laundry, the men were partying and parading through the streets. Some sources trace the origins of Weiberfastnacht back to a group of disgruntled washerwomen in a town called Beuel who were angry that they were forced to stay home while their husbands were out. As a result, the women decided to storm the town hall, take the keys and establish a women's carnival committee.

Today, this tradition has upheld - and you'll often see videos of women storming town halls on the news. But it's all in good nature - after all, it's a day of celebration!

By Nicole Glass, Editor of The Week in Germany

© Germany.info

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