Sunday, January 13, 2002

German observance mirrors Mardi Gras

Where to celebrate Fasching

By Polly Campbell
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Not as well known as Mardi Gras or Carnival, Fasching is the German counterpart: a mid-winter blow-out before Lent.

        It lasts from Fasnacht, Jan. 6, until midnight before Ash Wednesday. It's big in Bavaria, the southern, Catholic area of Germany. That's where George Fraundorfer, the owner of Black Forest restaurant, is from, and he always has a big Fasching celebration for three weekends at the West Chester Township restaurant.

        The festival began in pre-Christian days, and many of its elements have a pagan history, Mr. Fraundorfer says.

        “They would dress up in scary costumes to chase Father Winter away into the mountains, or dress beautiful to welcome spring. It's all about dancing, frolicking and drinking.”

        Wooden masks are traditional, and there are characters associated with the festival.

        “In my home town, Partenkirschen, there's a character named Baron Buschback, who was a street cleaner who became suddenly rich, and then spent all his money. Someone dresses as him, in a fancy suit and big beard, and hands out sausages,” Mr. Fraundorfer says.

        At the Black Forest, the celebration includes bands, dancing, comedy skits and costumes.

        “It's all very corny, and people have a lot of fun,” he says. “Customers come from a long way for it.”

        This year, the Enzian Schuhplattlers, a German dance group, will perform a “chicken opera” and lead the crowd in a Polonaise, a big circle dance. Waitresses will dress up, some as ugly witches and devils, others in pretty outfits. Costumed customers will vie for prizes.

        On the festival menu will be roast venison and hirschpfeffer (venison stew), served with herbed spaetzles and pears and cranberries. As always, there will be six German beers on tap.

        The Fasching entertainment will be next Friday-Saturday, Jan. 25-26 and Feb. 1-2. There will be a $2.50 cover charge. Music starts at 7 p.m., with shows at 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Reservations are suggested: 777-7600.


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