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Franconian Mardi-Gras

Bavaria's finance minister and his wife disguised for the 2012 gala evening.
© BR/Bernhard Wiemann - The Finance minister of Bavaria, Dr. Markus Söder, and his wife at the 2012 gala evening in Veitshöchheim. Their picture made it to the frontpage of the Wall Street Journal.

The so-called “season of the mad” (närrische Zeit) is officially inaugurated on 11/11 at 11:11 am - the number 11 has been regarded as “mad” since the Middle Ages as it is one number higher than the Ten Commandments and one number lower than the number of Jesus’ apostles... This moment marks the start of the preparation of Fasching (Carnival), which really starts the day after Epiphany, e.g. January 7th.

After long months of waiting, Fasching marks the season, reaching its climax on its last day, Mardi-Gras, in February. Traditionally Fasching served as the opposite of Lent during which one not only had to fast for 40 days but was also not allowed to participate in any kind of festivity. On Shrove Monday (Rosenmontag) and Mardi-Gras (Faschingsdienstag) there are many traditional parades, humorous carnival speeches and costumed balls.

In former times, the people would make fun of princes and bishops and get away with it unharmed; today it is politicians that are being made fun of. This tradition is still well alive in Franconia where an assembly of jesters of the local Carnival association (Fastnacht-Verband Franken) offers every year a TV-broadcast Gala evening (2013 picture gallery) in the village of Veitshöchheim, in the presence of most of the current and former ministers – disguised.