On October 2, I had the opportunity to be the guest speaker for the Minden Study Club meeting held at the Webster Parish Library in Minden. When ask to speak, I was specifically requested to make a presentation on the meaning of Fasching, how it relates to the City of Minden and why the City now celebrates it with a festival each November. The assignment was very appropriate with the Fasching Fifth Season Celebration being held for the sixth year on Saturday, November 19th. In preparation for the presentation, I began to research Fasching celebrations in Germany and here are a few highlights I learned:
A Quick History Lesson
In 1835, Charles Veeder built an inn on a hilltop a few miles from Bayou Dorcheat in North Louisiana. By 1836, he had laid out a town in the shape of a parallelogram. He named the settlement Minden, after the home of his ancestors in Germany. A year before Veeder arrived, a group of German Utopians, who had followed the mystic “Count Leon” to North America, established the settlement seven miles northeast of Minden now known as the Germantown Colony State Museum. The Germantown Colony was placed on the official list of the Nation’s Cultural Resources Worthy of Preservation by the U.S. Department of the Interior, Heritage Conservation and
Recreation Service in 1979.
From that unique German heritage springs Minden’s annual “Fasching” celebrations.
On Saturday, November 19, the Fasching Fifth Season Celebration, brings the distinctive German traditions to visitors of Minden and Webster Parish and celebrates the heritage of Minden with its German influences. It offers a full day of activities in historic downtown Minden with carnival rides, German food, and great entertainment, culminating in fantastic fireworks show at dusk and the beginning of the Holiday Trail of Lights. Minden’s downtown features thousands of colorful Christmas lights and hundreds of life-size Nutcrackers to honor Minden’s German Heritage. During the day, free shuttles run from downtown to the Germantown Colony State Museum.
On Saturday, February 11, 2017, the Fasching Karneval and Parade, Minden’s German equivalent of Mardi gras, offers a full day of activities in historic downtown Minden with carnival rides, German food, and a Mardi gras parade at 5:30 PM.
What is Fasching?
The word Fasching (pronounced “fa shing”) dates back to the 13th century and is derived from the Germanic word vaschanc or vaschang, in modern German: Fastenschank = the last serving of alcoholic beverages before Lent. In olden times the 40-day Lenten period of fasting was strictly observed. People refrained from drinking alcohol or eating meat, milk products and eggs. The English word “fast” (to refrain from eating) is related to German fasten. Historically, the purpose of Fasching or Karneval was to live it up before the start of Lent and its 40 days of sacrifice.
There are three different words in German for “Carnival” or “Mardi Gras”: Karneval, Fasching and Fastnacht.
In general, Karneval is the word used for the Rhenish (Rhineland) version of carnival in northwest Germany.
The word Fasching refers to the similar celebration in southern Germany and Austria.
The third common term for carnival in German, Fastnacht, which differs in some ways from Fasching and Karneval, is found in Baden-Württemberg, Franconia (northern Bavaria), Hesse and much of Switzerland. Although this word looks like it comes from the German for the “eve of Lent,” in fact it is based on the Old German word fasen (“to be foolish, silly, wild”). Thus the word, sometimes spelled Fasnacht (without the t) actually means something like “night of being wild and foolish.”
The Geography of Fasching, Fastnacht and Karneval: Although the division is roughly north/south, where the three words are used is actually a bit more complex.
Fasching – Austria (central, eastern), Bavaria (Munich, Würzburg); Berlin, Brandenburg, Saxony (Sachsen)
Fastnacht (Fasent, Fasnet, Fasnacht, Fassenacht) – Arlberg (western Austria), Baden (Black Forest, Freiburg, Konstanz), Franconia (Franken, northern Bavaria), Hesse (Wiesbaden), Saarland, Mainz, Swabia, Switzerland (Basel, Bern, Lucerne, Zurich), Luxembourg (Fuesend, “fasting evening”)
Karneval – Rhineland: Aachen, Bonn, Cologne (Köln), Düsseldorf
The Carnevale of medieval Venice is one of the earliest documented carnival celebrations in the world. It featured still-popular traditions, including carnival parades, masks and masquerade balls. Gradually the Italian Carnevale customs spread north to other Catholic European countries, including France. From France it spread to the German Rhineland and, through colonization, even to North America (Mardi gras).
On Wednesday, October 12, our office hosted 6 travel writers as part of a Louisiana North Historic Architecture Familiarization Tour. They were served an elegant dinner at the Grace Estate B & B and Tea Room and had the chance to explore the equally elegant guest rooms after their meal. The Grace Estate, recently purchased by Jimmy Hall from the descendants of the original owner, is an elegant venue for dining, weddings and parties, as well as a bed and breakfast, located in Minden’s beautiful Historic Residential District.
Located at 1114 Broadway in Minden, this home was built by Samuel Grigsby in 1910. The Grace Estate B & B and Tearoom. The estate features a one story balustrade porch and a Palladian dormer window. This home was inherited by Mrs. Cornelius Hutton and passed down again in 1957 to Juliet Hutton Rathbun. The home remained in the Rathbun family until 2014.
Next the writers were treated to a private tour and refreshments at the Bates- Irving home with owner Mrs. Frances Irving, a descendent of Margaret Mitchell, author of the American fiction bestseller, “Gone with the Wind”. Mrs. Irving shared family insights into the life of the famous author and a tour of her private residence. Before they left all were treated to an authentic taste of the South with mint julips and other southern delights.
Mrs. Frances Irving
The Bates-Irving Home at 508 Fort Avenue.
This beautiful plantation home, located at 508 Fort Avenue in Minden, is one of the oldest homes in North Louisiana and one of the best preserved and maintained. It was built in 1845 by Colonel William Bates, who purchased the land form Charles Veeder, the founder of Minden. This sturdy building was made of hand hewn cypress and has existed for approximately 171 years. The home is now available for private tours for groups of 15 or more with advanced reservations and admission is $20 per person. The home is so beautifully furnished it has been featured in Southern Living Magazine. Do not miss your chance to tour it during the holidays when it is so beautifully decorated for the season. Contact Frances Irving at 318.377.7092 to reserve your tour.
I encourage you to enjoy the upcoming fall weather by attending the wonderful events during the last two months of 2016. There is so much to experience around Webster Parish. For a calendar of upcoming events and more information visit our website at www.visitwebster.net.
Lynn Dorsey is Executive Director of the Webster Parish Convention and Visitors Bureau.