The roads into Sulzburg are closed for the parade, but that doesn’t matter to me. I left early this morning, not wanting to be in town for Fastnacht. I’ll go back this evening when the fuss is over.
I experienced Fastnacht during our first year here. Given what I had heard about it, I felt it was important to see it for myself. Once was enough.
Not that I have managed to completely avoid it. Fastnacht is the biggest holiday season here, much bigger than Christmas or Easter. I have seen Fastnacht revelers in Badenweiler as I was on the way to a friend’s place. My bus to Mullheim was delayed, according to the driver, by a Fastnacht celebration in Heitersheim. And in Freiburg the one time I have been this year, streets were closed for the Fastnacht celebrations.
I’m not opposed to a good party. But something about Fastnacht bothers me, perhaps because it is more than just people having a good time wearing animal costumes and getting drunk in public. It is also about wearing demonic masks, calling on Satan for power and simulating sex in public.
This is a “festival” with definite spiritual roots. I’m told that in northern Germany it is akin to New Orleans’ Mardi Gras, not something you would describe as Christian but not so blatantly the opposite. Fallen people having fun in a fallen fashion.
In this area though you can feel the spiritual struggle between good and evil. Some of the intricately carved masks have been in use for generations, passed down through the families. I suspect those families can tell you the names of the demon the mask represents.
There are those who dismiss Fastnacht as a harmless cultural expression. I can understand their position. We live in a culture that discounts the spiritual, or at least Christianity. Having rejected God, the culture also doesn’t grasp the reality of evil.
So a Fastnacht parade in praise of the devil may be the cultural highlight of the year – but I don’t have to take part.