What is Carnival? A Guide to Germany's Hottest Holiday

Fancy a celebration? Head out to Germany in November and enjoy the wonders of their Carnival, aka Karneval or Fastnacht.! A holiday that is recognised by most Germans as the nation's “Fifth Season” with celebrations being hotter and larger than that of Christmas and New Year! Let’s take a look at Fastnacht’s origin and why over 1 million people, both locals and visitors, come together to celebrate this time.

What Is Fastnacht? 🇩🇪🎉🙌

Ultimately, Carnival in Germany is an excess of parades, costumes, parties, balls, music, and beer during November. It is a brilliant time of year in the nation in which the people and anyone visiting can kick back and enjoy the activities and celebrations on offer.

Who Celebrates Carnival In Germany? 👀🗺️🇩🇪

Not every region will have the bold, bright and loud celebrations of Carnival. Depending on the region you are in, you might not notice people celebrating carnival at all. In Berlin, for example, you need to look hard for carnival celebrations, as they are not known to many.
Depending on the area you live in/visit in Germany, celebrations will vary as well as the name. Carnival can also be called Karneval, Fastnacht, and Fasching. Some might use a more local name. For example, in Cologne, Karneval is called Fastelovend colloquially.

Why Is Carnival Celebrated? 🎊

Carnival, like many European traditions, has religious roots. Carnival falls just before Lent on the Catholic calendar, which is a religious season over 40 days where believers reflect and prepare for Easter. This means that prior to this, the Germans take this as an opportunity to let loose and enjoy a party or two!
The origins of carnival in Germany go back to pagan times. Before Catholicism arrived in Germany, there were multiple spring festivals to celebrate the end of winter. These initial celebrations required people to wear scary masks to drive out the evil spirits and welcome a good crop season. As the years progressed and traditions changed, the carnival was then seen as the perfect ‘last party’ before Lent’s regulations would kick in.
The carnival celebrated in Germany today is a mix of all the traditions from the past and present.

When Does Carnival Take Place? 📅

The ‘fifth’ season of the year takes place every November 11th at 11:11, and it finishes at 23:59 on the day before Ash Wednesday. Despite Ash Wednesday starting on a different year each year, carnivals' start date always remains the same. Most locations celebrating carnival have a countdown to the start of the special event.
Between the parties on November 11th and Ash Wednesday, it may seem as though not much else is taking place; however, during this time, there are tons of smaller and more traditional events happening in all the villages that celebrate carnival.

Things To Know When Celebrating

You need to use the correct carnival call - Each region has different “fools’ calls”, which are yelled during carnival season. You must not confuse the terms per region, as it is seen as disrespectful because of the rivalry between the regions in Germany.
A costume is required - If you are attending a celebration of any sort, big or small, you have to wear a costume. You will be mocked a lot if you show up without any costume.
Expect to see many intoxicated people - as we know, Germany is big on booze! If you aren’t too keen on drinking or being around those who have had a few, you may not enjoy the carnival. Carnival is a time to get wild; people of all ages drink a lot during this time at all hours of the day.

Starting from Skratch? Here Are a Few Tips to Get Started:


Check out our other blog posts on other festivals and celebrations around the world!

Germany - Facts before you go


🇩🇪 German


💵  Euro

Time Zones

⏰ Central European Standard Time (GMT+1)


Tipping in restaurants and bars is a standard 10%

Known for

🏰 Castles & Architecture

🥨 🍻 Delicious Food & Beer

⛰🌲 Mountains & Forests

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Imogen Kemp
August 30, 2023

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