Fastnacht is basically the German version of Carnival, which is known world wide as a festival of scantily clad women dancing around in Rio de Janeiro. The German version is just a little bit different.
In a country where every last hut in the countryside can look back to more than a thousand years of history, pagan rites survived by painting themselves with Christian colors.
Unlike other countries, who are happy enough to mutilate innocent pumpkins and shower each other with tooth-rotting candy at the other end of the year, Germans take their show (and the candy) on the road. Because, honestly, every excuse to have a march is a good one.
There could be worse reasons, really.
Well, basically the same they do in Rio.
Dress up the ladies and watch them dance down the street.
I spy with my little eye a delicious baby!
Or dress up the men in funny clothes and watch their antics.
Well, two heads are certainly better than one.
Basically, there's funky masks all around.
I am a man of wealth and little taste.
Aside from the variety of carnivals in Southern Germany, there are others. Quite a lot of others.
In Mainz, the carnival mostly consists of some kind of Oktoberfest with harshly scripted cabaret performance. People who don't laugh at the right times are cordially ostracised from polite society afterwards.
There's also the carnival procession on Violet Tuesday, which means a long line of people in strange clothes and tasteful political commentary.
If you don't laugh, it will eat you.
Cologne pretty much does the same thing, as does every major city along the Rhine. Be sure not to mention it if you are there, or you will never leave. Ever, or the carnival royality (typically a prince and princess) will force you to watch 20 years' worth of Mainz bleibt Mainz wie es singt und lacht. And nobody wants that.
Fastnacht ends on Ash Wednesday. Thereafter, a period of feasting begins, which is German for nursing your hangover.
Now, finally, the children of Germany can look forward to happier days. Like Christmas, where they are in danger to be ripped to shreds by the devil with their parents helplessly looking on.
Wait a minute...
At Christmas, Krampus the Evil (Santa's sidekick) culls the disobedient children. Why? Because Fastnacht is not the only festival with pagan roots. And because Germans are just fucking evil.