CONTRIBUTED BY SARAH FORTE
Note: We are bringing this article out of the archives in time for the Ramstein Fasching Parade 2016, which will take place on Tuesday, February 9.
Fasching or Karneval in Germany is a major holiday and major fun to break up the winter! Fasching, Karneval, Carnival, Mardi Gras – they all come from the same root and are celebrated at the same time of year, just before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent on the Christian calendar. Lent is usually a somber season in the church so this fun festival season gets the “wiggle worms out.”
Ramstein village has an interesting opportunity to bring Fasching traditions to the Americans based in the area, specifically at Ramstein Air Base. While the biggest parades of the season are in Köln (Cologne) or Mainz (see Germany Ja’s article about the Mainz parade), the parade in Ramstein is smaller but less-stressful, more friendly and family oriented.
The Ramstein Fasching Parade always takes place on Shrove Tuesday (the day before Ash Wednesday). In 2016 the Ramstein parade will be on 9 February. The parade starts at 1400 and lasts around two hours. We went last year and had a great time!
Many organizations and businesses, both from the local community and from Ramstein Air Base are well represented. The Ramstein Air Force marching band led the parade and German signs and greetings were as common as English.
There is less jostling for a spot on the sidewalk along the parade route compared to the larger parades in Mainz or Köln. We arrived about half an hour early and had our choice of curb-side spots. Of course as the parade grew closer, the open spaces thinned out, but there were never rows behind each other.
The parade spectators are just as likely to be costumed as the parade participants, so break out your favorite costume and let the kiddos recycle their Halloween costumes. Be ready for them to come back filled with confetti! Last year I was finding it in the hidden corners of my coat for about a month! Speaking of costumes, some things that you might not see in PC American parade, that you will find here: draggy cross dressing and racial stereotypes.
One other big difference between an American parade and a German Fasching Parade (or maybe any public event?) is that it is perfectly acceptable to walk the parade route with a bottle of Bier or other adult beverage in hand. Maybe the wagon is for giving your kid a ride. Maybe it’s for your bottles. Ramstein parade still had a very family-friendly feel. At some of the other bigger parades you might need a closer eye on the kids, or find a kid-friendly version.
You will not leave empty handed (or stomached)! Many of the participants throw, hand out and otherwise launch their wares to the crowd. I was thrilled to be handed a fresh pretzel! It was also fun to watch the aim as parade goers tried to pitch their candy into the second floor window behind us. I’m sure those people find candy in their bushes for weeks to come!
The parade route is below. Make sure you park outside of the loop if you want to leave with your car as soon as the parade has past. The inside of the loop will be closed to traffic from 1200-2000. We parked a few blocks outside of the loop and had no problems coming or going. You can also take the train into town if you live in a nearby village. The route goes right by the Ramstein train stop.
Before the parade started there will be some people selling pins to help support the Fasching events in Ramstein. Each pin is €2.00 and also grants you free admission into the Fasching party in the Haus des Bürgers following the parade.
Different towns in Germany have different Fasching greetings. You will hear the parade participants and crowd yelling it back and forth. The official Fasching greeting in Köln is “Alaaf,” and in Mainz and Düsseldorf, it’s “Helau.” In Ramstein the Fasching shout is “Ralau.”
Practice yelling “Ralau,” brush off your favorite costumes and take your family to the Ramstein Fasching Parade this year. These are the kind of cultural experiences you can’t pass up!