Fasnet or Fasching in Stuttgart

Fas­net, Fasching, Karneval – oh my! You may have heard this mys­te­ri­ous hol­i­day described as Germany’s ver­sion of Car­ni­val or Mar­di Gras, but the pho­tos look more like Hal­loween! The mul­ti­plic­i­ty of names for the hol­i­day are deter­mined by geog­ra­phy, region­al dialect, and also impor­tant his­tor­i­cal dif­fer­ences. In this arti­cle we aim to help you under­stand more about the role this hol­i­day has played in var­i­ous parts of Ger­many as well as give you spe­cif­ic details about what to look for­ward to in the Stuttgart region.


Peo­ple in Baden and Swabia would tra­di­tion­al­ly have used the name Fas­net or var­i­ous­ly Fasent, Fas­nacht, Fast­nacht, Fasse­nacht. These are also the names used in the Black For­est, Fran­co­nia, Hesse, Mainz, and Saar­land. Today Stuttgart is a high­ly cos­mopoli­tan city, so you’ll hear many names used inter­change­ably, includ­ing Fasching and Karneval as well.

Fas­net has its roots in pagan tra­di­tions relat­ed to encour­ag­ing the end of win­ter. Peo­ple donned scary masks of wild men, beasts, and demons and parad­ed through the streets to fright­en away the evil win­ter spir­its. These carved wood­en masks and the cos­tumes that go with them are often pre­served for gen­er­a­tions and can still be seen today in Fas­net parades. Some peo­ple trace the name “Fas­net” back to an Old Ger­man word “fasen” which meant to be wild and foolish.

As Chris­tian­i­ty spread in Ger­many, the “hea­then” tra­di­tions were incor­po­rat­ed into the reli­gious cal­en­dar. Thus Fas­net came to be cel­e­brat­ed on the eve of the 40-day fast­ing peri­od that pre­cedes East­er. Peo­ple used the hol­i­day as a last chance to indulge all kinds of fool­ish­ness and plea­sure pri­or to the sober peri­od of the fast. The name “Fast­nacht” can be trans­lat­ed as “the eve of the fast.”


Fasching has been the name used in Bavaria, Berlin, Bran­den­burg, and Sax­ony since the late medieval peri­od. It comes from the Old Ger­man word “vaschang,” which sig­ni­fied the last call for serv­ing alco­hol before Lent. Par­tic­u­lar­ly in regions that were not swayed by Protes­tantism, the rules for Lent were observed care­ful­ly. In medieval times they were quite strict: only one meal per day which couldn’t include alco­hol, dairy, eggs, or meat – a peri­od of tee­to­tal­ing veg­an­ism! More­over, peo­ple were admon­ished to be reflec­tive and qui­et, con­sid­er­ing the suf­fer­ing of Christ.

Thus Fasching was the time to enjoy all the things that were not allowed dur­ing Lent. Peo­ple feast­ed, danced, sang, parad­ed through the street in cos­tume, and enjoyed them­selves to the fullest. Today’s cul­ture may be far more per­mis­sive, but peo­ple still enjoy the oppor­tu­ni­ty to let loose and enjoy a break from the drudgery of win­ter dur­ing Fasching.


Karneval is the name used in the Rhineland region, most famous­ly in Cologne. It comes from the Latin name used in the Roman-Catholic church and was car­ried up from Italy in the 17th cen­tu­ry along with many ele­ments of the wide­ly admired Venet­ian Car­ni­val. The tra­di­tions of this region pre­date the name, however.

In medieval times, this hol­i­day was a time for polit­i­cal satire and turn­ing the feu­dal order on its head. The com­mon peo­ple elect­ed a mock gov­ern­ment and select­ed a prince and princess to gov­ern them. The peo­ple mocked the lux­u­ri­ous dis­plays and self-impor­tance of their rulers with fun­ny plays and satir­i­cal speech­es, but pro­tect­ed them­selves from reprisal by wear­ing masks and cos­tumes to con­ceal their identity.

In the 18th cen­tu­ry, this tra­di­tion was mod­ern­ized to suit the times. The peo­ple dressed in cos­tumes sim­i­lar to mil­i­tary uni­forms and formed reg­i­ments to mock the occu­py­ing French and then the Pruss­ian army. Even today, some Rhinelanders belong to Kar­ni­vale reg­i­ments and march in parades in pow­dered wigs!

Dates and Events

The offi­cial start of the Fas­net sea­son, also called the fifth sea­son, is “elften elften um elf Uhr elf” – at 11:11 on the 11th of Novem­ber. This is when the var­i­ous clubs that put on parades, balls, and oth­er events begin their planning.

In Stuttgart you’ll gen­er­al­ly see events relat­ed to Fas­net start to appear at the begin­ning of Feb­ru­ary. There are cos­tume balls and oth­er par­ties on the week­ends lead­ing up to the most impor­tant week of the sea­son: the week before Lent begins. This week falls on dif­fer­ent dates each year, since the begin­ning of Lent is 46 days before East­er, and East­er is cal­cu­lat­ed accord­ing to a lunar calendar.

The cel­e­bra­to­ry week fea­tures out­door mar­kets with fun­ny con­tests and games, spe­cial children’s pro­grams, and less tra­di­tion­al cos­tume nights in local nightlife venues. The last three days of fes­tiv­i­ties are known as Tulpen­son­ntag (Tulip Sun­day), Rosen­mon­tag (Rose Mon­day) and Faschings­di­en­stag (known in Eng­lish as Shrove Tues­day). There are always parades in var­i­ous neigh­bor­hoods of the city as well as innu­mer­able par­ties. The Stuttgarter Zeitung always pub­lish­es a guide to local events at least a week in advance.

Fas­nacht ends as the clock strikes mid­night on that final Tues­day, pass­ing into Ashen­mittwoch (Ash Wednes­day) and the begin­ning of Lent.