Most Christians in the Deitscherei are very familiar with die Faschtnacht (known also by any number of spelling variations). Faschtnacht is the night before Ash Wednesday. The featured item of the day are the deep-fried doughnuts called "Faschtnachtskuche." The principle behind these doughnuts is the consumption of excess lard before the Lenten fasts begin. Similar cakes and doughnuts turn up in other cultures, including in the King Cake of Mardi Gras. Faschtnacht, though, is one small aspect of a longer time period called Fasching.
Although the Fasching is technically the same day as Shrove Tuesday, in Urglaawe it is the extended time from Grundsaudaag until roughly mid-February. As is the case with other Wild Hunt observances, Fasching includes costumes that represent the spirits, a great deal of food, and, in the past, tricks-or-treats. Although these features are very subdued in the Deitscherei in comparison to many European countries, these elements are increasing in the context of Urglaawe.
One surviving tradition is that the last person in the household to arise is deemed "the Faschtnacht," "der Faas," or "der Faschingkluck." This person has to do the chores of his/her siblings and to tolerate teasing by his siblings all day long.
I am a proud Deitscher. There are few traditional observances that really have me either flummoxed or even a little embarrassed. However, there is one Fasching tradition that does both. Fortunately, this tradition has all but died out. It was clearly related to the chores and teasing cited above, but it was a little bit more twisted.
According to Alfred Shoemaker (Eastertide in Pennsylvania, pp. 1-5, Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books 2000.), there was an elaborate teasing tradition that reflected a fertility rite and involved the clucking sounds of chickens in school. As the children arrived at school, the girls would cluck like hens, and the boys would caw like roosters. As each child arrived, he (or she) was greeted with, "Hallo, Faas!" by the child who had immediately preceded him. The child then received clucking and cawing instructions and made the appropriate sound until the next child arrived. If the child erred and spoke about anything else, or if a girl cawed or a boy clucked, there were penalties involved.
The typical penalty was that the child had to kiss another child of the opposite gender. Girls were encouraged to kiss any boy whom they wished. Apparently, though, the penalties for the final arriving child, if a girl, sometimes included sitting in the teacher's lap and giving him a kiss. As a teacher myself, I find this aspect particularly disquieting, but even the thought of the children walking around clucking is a little bizarre to me. However, this was the tradition of the past and it does reflect a surviving Heathen cultural element.
It will be interesting to see the evolution of the Fasching celebrations in the Urglaawe context. As stated earlier, Fasching is a reflection of the Wild Hunt, however, it also bears the aspect of the folk undertaking efforts to increase the strength of the approaching Spring. As such, the celebrations will relate to inviting Oschdre to approach faster.
Macht's immer besser!
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