Today is Ash Wednesday, this year, like the last two years, instead of giving something up I am committed to a good deed a day. Instead of Lent being about me, I want it to be about others. For me, it’s a more me way to observe Lent. I feel it’s a more Christ way to live those 40 days.  But, before we have Lent, we have Fasching. Carnival. Mardi Gras.

In Germany this is done BIG. Every town has a Narrenzunft (Fools/Jester association) or Hexenverein (Witch club), at least in my neck-of-the-woods.  The stories vary some, but all date back centuries, and each has meetings, practices, initiations, hazings and events the entire year.  And it all leads up to Fasching!

The biggest parade, though there are many in the “fifth season” or Fastnet, is on Fassnetssontag.. or the Sunday before Ash Wednesday. This is the one we go to, and our favorite is the one in my favorite little city: Weil der Stadt. This Sunday was no exception. We got there a half hour early, just in time to push our way through the crowds and get a front row seat on the street.

We took our new friends, Melinda & Adam, fresh off the boat in September. I prepared them a little and then threw them to the wolves.  Because. It is not just a parade, but an interactive parade.  And not necessarily the voluntary interactive kind of parade. Being there is consent.  The what you consented to is always a surprise!

This year, possibly due to my neon orange sweatshirt & hat, I was a prime target. Moreso than in any other year.  I had mistakenly thought my camera protected me, turns out, that’s not really true. I got my fair share of exercise running down the street, in the middle of the parade, chasing after my stolen hat.  My face was quickly blacked with shoe polished by mischievous fools, and I spent some time up close & personal rolling on the ground with presumptuous witches. The only thing I was spared was riding the bucking branch of death and spinning in the bowl of hay.

Part of the fun is being singled out by the witches, demons, ghosts, etc. on parade.  Besides stealing hats they steal shoes, socks & shoe-laces (Dane fought very hard to keep his favorite laces, despite a three-witch gang up on a little boy!).  Besides grabbing people & rolling them in the street, they also pick up people (mostly young girls) and spin them till they are dizzy, toss them over shoulders like bags of potatoes and carry them for blocks.  Besides shoe polish many also carry blown-up pig bladders (the better to hit you with) or stick brooms (more hitting, or sweeping of feet).  Some throw candy, some pelt you with pinecones.  It’s always the same, and yet different, crazy.

The parade is a good three hours long, villages from all over (even “our” sister city in France: Riquewihr) send their witches, floats and bands!  Behind the crowds are booths overflowing with bier, Glühwein (hot, mulled wine),  wursts (sausages), pizza’s and berliners (jelly-filled donuts).  It is, without question, a heckuva good time.







Those are really real dried pig bladders. The better to beat you with.



Nothing quite like being grabbed from the crowd, forced on a bucking branch of wood, and hauled down the street at breakneck speeds!


Hat stealing… I love running in the parade, protectively cradling my camera, to get my hat!