Men, protect your neckties!

450px-Carnival_in_Düsseldorf_2011_-_Altweiberfastnacht_1Kölle Alaaf! On this Thursday, from 11:11 o’clock on, the carnival revelers are on the streets again!

For a few days, people break free from their everyday lives and can be a different version of themselves. Especially in the carnival strongholds in the Rheinland region people once again celebrate and laugh, show off their crazy costumes, and collect the sweets that are thrown off the colorful parade floats.

Weiberfastnacht is celebrated on the Thursday before Ash Wednesday, and, at least in the regions where the street carnival is celebrated, is a bit different from what you might know as Fat Thursday. It marks the beginning of the street carnival festivities (which go on until Ash Wednesday), but it is a much younger tradition than that of carnival itself. It only came to life in the 19th century, when the washerwomen of a district in Bonn united and fought for the right of women to take part in the carnival celebrations – up until then, this had been reserved to men.

Even today, women “take over” on Weiberfastnacht. In many cities, they “storm” the town halls, to symbolically take the reins away from the men. Additionally to their hag-like costumes, the female jesters are also equipped with scissors: As it is considered a symbol of power, they cut off all the men’s neckties. But there’s a bright side to it: each man is compensated with a ‘Bützje’ – a little kiss on the cheek!


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