Today is the annual Fastnacht parade in Sulzburg. I won’t be watching.
Whether I am even in town will depend on the weather forecast. My thought had been to avoid the festivities completely and take the train to Freiburg after church. There’s nothing open in Freiburg on Sundays, but I can at least wander through the old city.
However, the last time I checked there was a 100 per cent chance of rain. That make it less appealing. After church I might just try and get back to Sulzburg and stay inside.
Last year I watched the parade. I felt I should see for myself if it had the spiritual overtones that had been suggested, or if people were overreacting at some light-hearted fun. They weren’t.
There were more than 100 different groups taking part, I figure a couple of thousand people all told, swearing their allegiance to Satan. That’s not the sort of thing you want to do in fun; he takes that sort of thing seriously.
Sulzburg has fewer than 2,000 residents by my calculations. The official number, 2,700, includes the nearby villages of Laufen and St. Ilgen. For last year’s parade I estimated that close to 5,000 people lined the route. It was a big deal.
The roads into town were closed and you had to pay admission to enter. Two euros if I remember correctly. Residents were exempt at least, though we had nothing to prove residency – driver’s licenses here don’t include an address, and who carries their lease with them? I guess we looked honest; we were allowed through without paying the toll.
The parade was colorful. Some of the grotesque masks are hundreds of years old. Withes, demons and animals. They don’t look all that comfortable, though I suppose appearances can be deceiving. Why would they still be in use unless there was a certain power ascribed to them?
There’s a fair amount of simulated sex on the streets – I guess that sort of behavior goes with the mood of the day. If you are swearing allegiance to the devil then anything that might have God-roots gets tossed by the wayside. Some of the activity seemed to me to be unsuitable for children, but maybe German sensitivities are different.
For tourists I’m sure it is a great sight. There’s a nod to history and folk religion, but there is no need to take it seriously.
Maybe I shouldn’t either. Except that the older I get, the more aware I become of the different spiritual forces at play in our world. In the spirit realm, neutrality is not an option.
I won’t be endorsing anything to do with Fastnacht, no matter how benign it seems. If you must choose sides, it is best to choose the winning one. Given a choice between an allegiance with the master of lies or the Creator of the universe, you would think there was only one logical choice.
I hope those parading down the streets of Sulzburg today take time to consider their options. If they do, maybe next year there won’t be a Fastnacht parade.