So what is German Carnival ie Fasching ie Karneval ie Fastnacht. Well friends, you’ll be excited to learn it’s Germany’s very own version of Mardi Gras!  Don’t let anyone tell you that the Germans don’t know how to party.  However do let them tell you how in Germany they love a billion different names for the exact same thing depending on where in the country you are!

If you have never experienced Mardi Gras or Fasching before it is a little crazy and totally bonkers in the best senses of the words.  Feasting, partying, costumes, parades and a total spectacle!

What is German Carnival or Fasching, Fastnacht, Karneval?

Fasching is a traditional German celebration, also known as Karneval or Fastnacht. It is carnival season, which has been celebrated for centuries by people worldwide with German heritage.

It was a festival that originated in the cities, most notably Mainz and Speyer.  And it was already established in Cologne by 1234.

Traditionally Carnival is a four-month celebration that begins on the 11th of the 11 month (November) every year. It also begins right on the clock of 11 minutes past 11.  However most of the ‘action’ and celebration for many cities across Germany occur in the few days lead up to Ash Wednesday.  With non-stop parties, parades and interesting traditions for instance women wandering the streets and cutting off men’s ties.  However, the biggest parade often occurs on Rose Monday with a huge procession taking place.

What can you expect at German Carnival / Fastnacht?


And the more outlandish the costume the better!  It is worth noting that not only do different parts of Germany have different names for the festival and celebration but they also have slightly different ways of celebrating.  Meaning some cities have more lighthearted approach and other a more traditional one meaning costumes can be rather frightening for little ones.

Burning of the Nubbel: A Carnival Tradition

Perhaps one of Karneval’s darker and more unique traditions is the burning of the Nubbel.  But what exactly is the ‘nubbel’?

Nubbel is a name for a dressed straw doll that emerged around 1950 and hung above many pubs during the Fasching festivities.  And the burning of the Nubbel is said to mark the end of the Carnival season.  The cloth figure is traditionally burned at midnight on Shrove Tuesday to Ash Wednesday.  Ultimately, this burning is said to absolve revellers of sins committed during the festivities.  However, in contemporary times, the Nubbel represents all carnival enthusiasts and is seen as a scapegoat for any mistakes and misdemeanours committed during the Lenten Carnival.

In other regions, it is known by different names like Zacheies (in the Cologne area), Lazarus (in Jülich), or Bacchus (in the Ruhr area). The Nubbel is named after a person who should not be named. Hence, the term “Nubbel Chris” can be translated to mean “someone”, and “dä es beim Nubbel” means “he is somewhere”. 

Use The Correct Carnival Greeting or Call

Just as each region may use a different name to refer to Carnival ie Fastnacht, Fasching Karneval so do they each have a particular call or greeting! And, it’s important to use the correct one wherever you are celebrating 😉.  Here a few to get you started!

  • Kaiserslautern cry ‘Kalau!
  • Wiesbaden and nearby Mainz cry ‘Helau!‘ (perhaps one of the most famous ones along with Cologne’s Alaaf!)
  • Cologne / Bonn, the popular carnival cry is ‘Alaaf’.
  • Düsseldorf cry Helau!
  • Baden-Würtenburgk, Rottweil cry ‘Hu Hu Hu’

Don’t say we didn’t warn you!

Be Merry and eat Donuts but beware

If you ever needed an excuse to eat donuts this is it!  Well technically they are not donuts like the celebration name and the carnival greeting each region has it’s own particular name for the sweet treat ie Kreppel or Berliner. Usually doughnut is filled with any red jam: raspberry, strawberry or rosehip jam.  However, there is a common joke in the North of Germany that some of the sweet treats are filled with mustard!  And whilst this joke may have begun in the North be sure to check your filling before eating.

Where to celebrate Fastnacht in and around Frankfurt?

Frankfurt Fastnacht

Children – carnival procession

When: Saturday 10 February 2024 at 12:11 pm
Where: from Hauptwache to Römer

Storming of the town hall “Römer”

When: Saturday 10 February 2024 at 13:11 pm
Where: Römer – keys handed over by the Lord Mayor to the Frankfurt royal couple as part of a colourful programme.

Before the train party

When: Sunday 11 February 2024 at 11 am
Where: am Römer

Large Frankfurt carnival procession through downtown Frankfurt

When: Sunday 11 February 2024 at 12:21 pm
Where:  Parade departs from Untermainkai (Spectator stand on the Römerberg)

Mainz (Thursday 8 Feb 2024 – Wednesday 14 Feb 2024)

As mentioned above, the festival originated in a city (among others) not too far from here, Mainz.  Thus, Fasching or rather Määnzer Fassenacht as it is known in German is still one of the most popular to experience celebrations. Such is the spectacle of the parade that it is broadcast live on national television.  It runs for 7 kilometres, and like many other carnivals, the highlight takes place on Rose Monday.  With an emphasis on political satire and literary humour, it is often a voice for criticism of current events.  

Where is Mainzer Fastnacht:  City Center, Mainz
When is Mainz Fastnacht Highlight parade:  Rose Monday

  • Starting at 11.11 a.m. political floats, marching bands, flag bearers and guards make their way from Mainz Neustadt
  • From 4.11 p.m. MussiggBox invites you to celebrate and dance on the “Lu” (Ludwigsstraße)

Taunus Carnival

After a long break, the Taunus carnival parade is back again in Oberursel.  Floats, pedestrians and guards, as well as marching bands, will move through the city center of Oberursel.

When:  The train starts on Sunday, February 11, 2024 at 2:11 p.m.

Where:  The procession runs through the city centre with the main spectator, Grandstand on den Marktplatz

Route:  As always, the train participants assemble and line up on Altkönigstraße (in reverse train order). Next the train route goes via the street “Am Rahmtor”, den Marktplatz, Eppsteiner Straße, Hommkreisel, Holzweg, Epinay-Platz, Henchenstraße, Liebfrauenstraße, Adenauerallee, Aumühlenstraße and Austraße.

Party in Offenbach at Freitagsfasching 2024

Since 2017, with a ‘brief’ interlude for Covid, they have been partying up a storm in the Offenbach Stadthalle for Fasching!  HELIUM6 will be doing what they do best, banging out pop and rock covers from 80s, 90s and noughties.  After that it’s over to the DJ team who will take you deep deep into the night!  For more info and tickets, click

When:  Friday, February 9th, 2024
Admission Timing:  7 p.m., start 8 p.m.
Where:  Stadthalle Offenbach

Moderation: Evren Gezer (FFH, ARD, NDR)
Live: HELIUM6 (from 8 p.m.)
Info and Tickets:  Freitagsfasching 2024

Good to know:

  • Rose Monday – 12 February 2024
  • Shrove Tuesday – 13 February 2024
  • Ash Wednesday – 14 February 2024
  • The Black Forest Carnival parade stays true to its pagan roots.  Meaning, dressing up in scary costumes and chasing away the evil winter spirits that roam the Earth during carnival.
  • So, depending on where you are celebrating, be aware that costumes can be scary for little humans (aka children)